EL DIVORCIO DE PUERTO RICO Y LOS ESTADOS UNIDOS

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Muchos hablan de como Estados Unidos tiene bloqueado a Cuba y no se dan cuenta de que Estados Unidos también tiene bloqueado a Puerto Rico del resto del mundo.

El bloqueo estadounidense contra Puerto Rico nos:

1. Impide tener relaciones políticas y económicas con otros países del mundo.

2. Impide poder ser miembros de organismos internacionales.

3. Obliga a solo poder usar la marina mercante estadounidense, la cual es la más cara del mundo causando que paguemos altos costos por alimentos y productos.

4. Obliga a depender casi en su totalidad de productos y alimentos importados estadounidenses causando que no desarrollemos nuestra agricultura y no tengamos una industria nacional fuerte.

5. Impone un sistema de ayudas diseñado para enriquecer a las mega tiendas estadounidenses y mantener a los pobres sumizos y en la pobreza.

6. Obliga a ser un mercado cautivo para Estados Unidos y sus mega corporaciones causando que dichas mega tiendas destruyan a los negocios nacionales.

7. Ata las manos y no nos deja tener los poderes necesarios para ser dueños de nuestro propio destino y nos convierte en esclavos de un país que no le interesa nuestro bienestar, sino que nos utiliza como un negocio rentable.

8. Mantiene ignorantes ya que no nos enseñan en la escuela la historia de atropellos y abusos que sufre Puerto Rico desde que fuimos invadidos por Estados Unidos en 1898 y nos hacen ver a dicho país como si fuera Disney y a América Latina como “repúblicas bananeras”.

9. Ha lavado el cerebro y nos ha robado nuestra dignidad y orgullo de ser puertorriqueños y de pensar que Puerto Rico puede ser, como lo son muchas otras, una nación libre e independiente.

10. No nos permite renegociar nuestra deuda ni declararnos en quiebra.

Ya es hora de acabar con el bloqueo estadounidense contra Puerto Rico que atenta contra nuestro desarrollo económico, dignidad como pueblo y que nos aisla de América Latina y del resto del mundo.

 

 

Puerto Rico defaults: When the salsa stops

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The commonwealth has run out of wealth. Will Washington save it?

PUERTO RICO’S creditors have plenty to complain about, but they can’t claim they weren’t warned. Last June Alejandro García Padilla, the governor of America’s Caribbean outpost, announced that its $72 billion public debt was “unpayable”, and that a “unilateral and unplanned non-payment of obligations” loomed. Half a year later, he has fulfilled that threat: on January 4th the government missed a $36m coupon on paper issued by its Infrastructure Financing Authority. “There were those who said I was bluffing,” he says. “I told the truth. To avoid a new default, [bondholders] have to sit down and negotiate.”

Unlike fiscal crises elsewhere, the decision did not set off pot-banging protests or queues at cashpoints. On the contrary, the governor was all smiles the next day as he welcomed children into La Fortaleza, his colonial-era palace in the capital of San Juan, for the eve of Three Kings’ Day, which Puerto Ricans (boricuas, as they call themselves) celebrate as much as Christmas. Plaza las Américas, the city’s mega-shopping mall, was packed as parents finished shopping for gifts to put under their children’s beds overnight, and waiting times at popular restaurants were over an hour. The contrast between the island’s dire public finances and its holiday spending binge was surreal, and impossible to sustain.

Only in a territory as unconventionally governed as Puerto Rico could this through-the-looking-glass economy persist. America conquered the island from Spain in 1898 and granted its residents citizenship in 1917, just in time to draft 20,000 of them for the first world war. In 1952 the island became a self-governing “commonwealth”, subject to American law but excluded from federal income taxes and from voting representation in Washington.

Federal investment and tax breaks helped Puerto Rico develop from a sugar-based economy to a pharmaceutical-manufacturing hub. But once producers like Ireland and Singapore began to compete and the tax preferences expired, the island did not develop a new comparative advantage. As part of the United States, Puerto Rico could not devalue its currency, and the national minimum wage inflated its labour costs. But being American offered benefits as well. Residents could move to the States to find work, and were eligible for federal welfare payments if they stayed. Meanwhile, the government could issue tax-exempt municipal bonds, prized by mainland investors.

As a result, the economy slowly hollowed out. The population has fallen from 3.9m to 3.5m during the past decade, with young workers accounting for much of the exodus. Those who stayed tended either to depend on the state—as students, public employees, pensioners or recipients of federal largesse—or to fall into the sprawling underground economy and bustling drug trade. Candidates from across the political spectrum have won office by keeping the gravy train running: more than a third of Puerto Rican schoolchildren are classified as having special needs, inflating the teacher-to-pupil ratio, and the island’s health plan for the poor would be the envy of any American state. A paltry 40% of working-age boricuas are in the labour force, and just 57% of personal income in Puerto Rico comes from formal private jobs, compared with 76% for the 50 states, according to José Villamil, an economist. Investment has collapsed, from 27% of GNP in 2001 to 13% today. Yet retail sales have held steady since 2008. The only way to maintain consumption was via massive borrowing: during the past 15 years, the government’s nominal debt load has tripled.

This system worked as long as mainland investors retained their appetite for Puerto Rico’s high-yielding bonds. But after Detroit went bust in 2013, municipal creditors fled to safety and the commonwealth lost market access. That forced Mr García Padilla to cut spending and raise taxes. The island’s only children’s hospital, whose budget has been cut by 14% in the past two years, lacks CT and MRI machines. Overall spending has dropped by 6.2% since 2013, while tax increases have raised revenues by 8%. This has exacerbated the island’s decade-long recession. The government’s audited 2014 financial statements are long overdue, but according to Mr Villamil GNP shrank 0.9% that year and a further 1.7% in 2015. The sharpest decline is forecast for 2017.

“The numbers don’t add up in Puerto Rico’s books,” Mr García Padilla says. Only by reducing and delaying the government’s liabilities, he argues, can the island resume growth and generate enough tax revenue to maximise repayment to creditors. However, the commonwealth’s awkward status within the United States has stymied his efforts.

If Puerto Rico were either an independent country or the 51st state, it could abrogate its central-government debt, because states cannot be sued in federal court. As an “unincorporated territory”, it may not enjoy this privilege. Similarly, in 1984 Congress excluded Puerto Rico from Chapter 9 of the federal bankruptcy code, which covers “instrumentalities” of states such as local governments and state-owned enterprises. In 2014 the territory passed its own version of Chapter 9, but it was struck down in federal court (though the Supreme Court is to hear its appeal). Mr García Padilla is desperate for Congress to change this. But the hedge and mutual funds that hold large swathes of its debt oppose the idea vigorously, and so far the legislature has failed to act. “The bottom line is our political status,” says Juan Torruella, a Puerto Rican federal judge who voted to reject the territory’s home-grown bankruptcy law. “Any way you put it, Puerto Rico is a colony. What happens in Puerto Rico is decided in Washington.”

Unless and until the law changes, the government will keep juggling liabilities to stave off default. After 17 months of talks, the Puerto Rican power company recently struck a deal with its creditors. But with 18 different issuers and the treasury running dry, such an agreement will be hard to replicate at scale. To conserve cash, Mr García Padilla is taking his sweet time to pay tax refunds and public contractors. Guillermo Martínez of GM Group, which provides security guards, says $4.5m of his firm’s bills to the commonwealth are over 90 days past due. Just like its bondholders, the government has these suppliers over a barrel. “If we stop providing services, will they pay me, or the people who will replace me?”, he asks. “Puerto Rico has been good to us. We have to help the government—until we can’t afford it any more.”

After exhausting such gambits, Puerto Rico is now resorting to payment prioritisation. In August it failed to pay a legally unenforceable “moral obligation” bond. And last month it “clawed back” rum taxes originally destined to pay infrastructure bonds in order to make good on its constitutionally guaranteed “general-obligation” bonds. That left the lower-ranked securities to default. Mr García Padilla says that if he must pick between servicing debt and paying police, nurses or teachers, he will choose the latter, which would set off a constitutional crisis. Without a reprieve from the federal government, a cascade of lawsuits appears inevitable.

Fortunately, a solution could be forthcoming. The Treasury Department has proposed a mechanism that would allow a restructuring of the constitutionally guaranteed debt. Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, has promised a “responsible solution” by March. What would be life-changing sums of money for the commonwealth are rounding errors in the federal budget. Rescuing Puerto Rico might prove a relatively cheap way to curry favour with Latino voters in this year’s congressional and presidential elections. And the Supreme Court may yet rule that state-owned companies can enter Chapter 9. Three Kings’ Day may have already passed. But Mr García Padilla has reason to hope that the camels will soon bring a belated gift.

SOURCE

The Legal Status of Puerto Rico: Supreme Court Preview: Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle

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Thanks to the Federalist Society for inviting me to contribute as an “independent expert” to this Supreme Court preview. I want to draw readers’ attention to a case that’s received little attention so far, partly because the Court only recently decided to hear it. The case, Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle, implicates the question that has haunted U.S.-Puerto Rico relations since the 1950s:  what is the legal “status” of Puerto Rico and what precisely is the island’s legal and constitutional relationship to the United States? As the well-crafted certiorari petition began: “This is the most important case on the constitutional relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States since the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1952.”

The specific issue is how the Double Jeopardy clause and the “dual sovereignty” doctrine apply to criminal prosecutions brought against the same defendant in federal court and the Puerto Rico courts. The Double Jeopardy Clause protects against successive prosecutions only by the same sovereign; the States have long been treated as separate sovereigns from the federal government for these purposes. The question is whether the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, established in 1952, should be treated similarly to a State for purposes of double jeopardy. Puerto Rico is not a State, of course, but the federal courts since the 1950s have treated Puerto Rico as legal akin to a State for many legal purposes, such as state immunity from suit doctrines, including in cases I argued before the D.C Circuit in 2006 and before the First Circuit in 2004 (I have not had any involvement in Sanchez Valle).[1]

The argument that Puerto Rico is not a distinct sovereign from the national government, which the current Supreme Court of Puerto Rico accepted, is that Puerto Rico is still a “territory” of the United States for constitutional purposes and that when Puerto Rico enacts its criminal laws—or any other laws—it is not exercising the powers of autonomous self-government but only the powers that have been delegated to it by Congress. Thus, the courts of Puerto Rico are in essence courts of the United States, Puerto Rico and the United States are “the same” sovereign, and once there has been a federal criminal conviction, a defendant cannot be tried for the same crime in the Puerto Rico courts. On the other side, the argument of the government of Puerto Rico is that the relationship of the United States to Puerto Rico, which the United States took possession of from Spain after the Spanish-American War of 1898, was fundamentally transformed in 1952, when Congress and Puerto Rico entered into a “compact” that created the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. As a result, Puerto Rico held a Constitutional Convention and adopted its own popularly-ratified Constitution, which the United States Congress and the President approved. Since then, Puerto Rico has been a self-governing entity in much the same way as the States and should be considered a separate “sovereign,” entitled to prosecute criminal defendants under its own laws, for purposes of the Double Jeopardy Clause.

The issues are historically and legally fascinating, but also the most politically explosive and divisive issues in Puerto Rico:  they go to the existential question of what Puerto Rico is and what its current and future relationship to the United States is and is likely to be. The issues also now profoundly divide the lower courts. The 1st Circuit, the federal court of appeals with the greatest expertise in Puerto Rico issues, has long held that Puerto Rico is a separate sovereign for double jeopardy (the 11th Circuit disagreed back in 1993, but rarely hears such cases). The Puerto Rico Supreme Court used to agree with the 1st Circuit, but in the decision under review, overruled its prior decisions and held that Puerto Rico is not a distinct sovereign.

The Supreme Court only episodically takes a crack at legal issues concerning Puerto Rico and even more rarely on legal issues that so directly implicate Puerto Rico’s fundamental legal status. I typically avoid getting into the business of making Supreme Court predictions, but I believe the Supreme Court, with a large majority, will reverse the Puerto Rico Supreme Court. But the specific outcome on the Double Jeopardy issue is less important than what the Court will say about the surrounding issues connected to Puerto Rico’s legal status. Even small statements related to this issue potentially will have great significance for debates and executive-branch and congressional-branch policy going forward on Puerto Rico’s status. Moreover, this is the first Puerto Rico case the Court will have heard since Justice Sotomayor joined the Court, and it would be surprising, given her powerful interest in these issues, if she did not write extensively on Puerto Rico’s legal status. Justice Breyer, too, has considerable familiarity with these issues from his time on the First Circuit, and he too is likely to have well-developed views.  Sanchez Valle is under the radar screen for the moment, but it promises to be one of the most interesting cases of the Term.

SOURCE

4 Reasons Independence Is the Right Path for Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico is in a state of emergency. Its public debt, which Governor Garcia Padilla recently declared unpayable, is $73 billion and counting. Unemployment is hovering at a dismal 14 percent and 46 percent of the island’s inhabitants are living below the poverty line, a rate higher than that of any state on the mainland.

Puerto Rico’s recent surge in out-migration is also cause for concern. Spurred largely by the economic crisis, a historic exodus of residents to the mainland translates to a shrinking tax base which, in turn, puts additional strain on an already weakened economy and burdens those remaining on the island with higher taxes and dwindling resources.

Although a variety of suggestions have been proposed to save the island from default, here are four reasons a clearly articulated, multi-year transition to independence is the only long-term viable solution for Puerto Rico.

1. Puerto Rico’s serious and worsening economy is largely rooted in its colonial status.

As a U.S. colony, Puerto Rico’s insolvent municipalities and public corporations cannot declare bankruptcy. And because Puerto Rico is not independent, it is prohibited from seeking help from international financial institutions, leaving it with few options in the face of what seems like inevitable default. Yet while the right to declare bankruptcy is important in helping the island restructure its mounting debt, it is only part of a short-term solution to a crisis that is, at its core, deeply structural.

Puerto Rico’s economy is both limited by and dependent on Washington. Constrained by U.S. federal laws and regulations, the island’s economy lacks the structural capacity to thrive on its own. Puerto Rico has no control over its monetary policy and little control of its fiscal policy. Issues related to immigration, foreign policy and trade are dictated by U.S. law and U.S. regulatory agencies.

Further, because Puerto Rico has no actual representation in Congress, decisions are made with little to no consideration for the needs and general welfare of the island’s residents. Indeed, Puerto Ricans must adhere to laws passed by a government in which they do not participate. Independence would grant Puerto Rico a platform to address the debt crisis on its own terms and afford the island’s 3.5 million inhabitants the right to self-determination.

2. Statehood is a pipe dream.

Economic and cultural arguments aside, statehood has never been a real option for Puerto Rico. Contrary to Alaska and Hawaii, which were deemed “incorporated” territories with the intention of moving toward annexation to the Union, the decision to keep Puerto Rico as “unincorporated” was a ploy to avoid statehood.

Indeed, Puerto Rico’s status as an unincorporated territory means that it “belongs to, but is not part of the U.S.” And that is unlikely to change. A Republican-controlled Congress would never admit Puerto Rico — with its massive debt and overwhelmingly Democratic (and non-white, Spanish-speaking) voting base — into the Union, even if such a determination is made by the island’s residents.

3. Other nations have proved that independence is possible. 

For far too long, the people of Puerto Rico have chosen to accept the comfort of a familiar yet broken status quo over the uncertainty of real, revolutionary change. Indeed, many on the island and in the diaspora adhere to a colonized mentality, one that believes an independent Puerto Rico is economically unsustainable. But liberated nations across Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America have demonstrated otherwise.

Singapore is a prime example. With a size 14 times smaller than Puerto Rico, less natural resources, and a significantly higher population density, Singapore has thrived socially and economically since gaining independence — even exceeding the per capita income of the United States.

4. An independent Puerto Rico would more readily protect the welfare and the rights of its people than the United States. 

Since the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898, Washington’s relationship with Puerto Rico has been one of exploitation and convenience. From the Ponce Massacre and government-sanctioned programs aimed at forcibly sterilizing working class Puerto Rican women to unethical testing and human radiation experiments on Puerto Rican prisoners, the U.S. government has a shameful track record of transgressions on the island.

And let’s not forget Vieques: for more than 60 years the U.S. Navy used the island of Vieques as target practice. Though the bombings stopped in 2003, the U.S.’ legacy on Vieques continues in the form of destroyed land (over half the island is uninhabitable), shattered livelihoods, and increased rates of cancer, birth defects, and illnesses — the result of contamination from years of continuous bombings.

Yet because Puerto Rico lacks any real autonomy or representation, these and other travesties — both social and economic — are largely ignored. Independence would hold accountable elected representatives at all levels of government and restore power to the people.

SOURCE

THIS GEORGE LOPEZ PARODY VIDEO OF DONALD TRUMP’S SNL GIG IS A MUST-WATCH

trumpWhile demonstrators plan “Dump Trump” protests outside of NBC Studios, George Lopez and Funny or Die are teaming up to expose the absurdity of Donald Trumphosting “Saturday Night Live” this weekend through comedy.

MORE: WATCH: Protestors Demand NBC “Dump Trump” at Rally Near ‘SNL’ Studio

The funny man returns as Donaldo Trumpez, a Mexican version of Trump, though this time appearing on “Noche De Sabado En Vivo,” which translates to “Saturday Night Live.”

The clip begins with Trumpez dressed in a “Humpty Trumpty” costume, as a Mariachi band sings, “Humpty Trumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.” Of course, Trumpez hilariously adds in, “In the polls!”

Trumpez then delivers a speech that couldn’t be more spot-on.

“There was a time when I could call leaders stupid, and let people know I could fix any problem without any explanation, and no one would question me,” Trumpez, taking a jab at the real Republican hopeful’s lack of proposals, said. “A time when all I had to do was call a foreigner a rapist or refer to a female candidate as ugly and the whole world would cheer.”

For the more than 520 thousand petitioners who have called on the variety show to disinvite Trump, this is exactly what producers are doing: applauding Trump’s racist and sexist speech by giving him a platform to spew it.

Despite cries from politicianscelebrities and thought leaders, the petition and a rally, Trump is still scheduled to host SNL Saturday, Nov. 7.

PLUS: Adrienne Bailon Sounds Off on Donald Trump’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ Gig

Watch the short “Noche De Sabado En Vivo” episode above.

SOURCE

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Former Young Lords Talk Latino Activism

young-lordsDo you know about the Young Lords? They were only about 19 years old when this group of predominantly Puerto Rican activists took over a church to feed hungry kids, commandeered an x-ray truck to get tuberculosis screenings in their neighborhoods and got the city to pick up festering garbage. Their legacy lives on in school breakfast programs and other services that were lacking then.

Former Young Lords Talk Latino Activism

Do you know about the Young Lords? They were only about 19 years old when this group of predominantly Puerto Rican activists took over a church to feed hungry kids, commandeered an x-ray truck to get tuberculosis screenings in their neighborhoods and got the city to pick up festering garbage. Their legacy lives on in school breakfast programs and other services that were lacking then.

Posted by NBC Latino on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Puerto Rican Christmas Traditions

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Asalto or trulla are other words for parranda. 

Aguinaldos is what Puerto Ricans call their Christmas songs. Some of the songs are very religious and these are called villancicos. Some have a criollo flavor and they are called décimas navideñas. The rest are either traditional aguinaldos or popular Christmas songs.

Despedida de Año or Año Viejo is New Year’s Eve (December 31st). It is celebrated in Borinquen with firecrackers and parties that last until morning. When the clock begins to chime for midnight some people eat one grape at every chime – for good luck. Then at midnight everyone hugs, and people go outside and honk the car horns and there are fireworks everywhere. A few minutes later most Boricuas listen to “El Brindis del Bohemio”, a traditional poem for that occasion, usually heard on the radio. (We have posted this poem on our site). 

Día de los Inocentes falls on December 28th. This feast used to be celebrated much like a carnival, where men dressed as the “evil soldiers of Herod” went house to house, “kidnapping” the first-born boy from every family. To recover their children, the families offered the soldiers gifts and candly. This tradition continues today in a small town called Hatillo. The town joins in a parade and later participates in a public party at the town square. This carnival originated in the Canary Islands brought to Puerto Rico by our ancestors.** The celebration in the rest of the island is more like April Fool’s Day in the USA, where people trick each other. 

** The “canarios” are our closest Spanish ancestors and many of our traditions and most of what makes us Hispanos comes from this ancestry. 

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Misa de Aguinaldo is a Catholic Mass that is almost completely a song service. Aguinaldos are sung and the musical instruments used are the traditional cuatro (Puerto Rican guitar), guitars, güiros, and maracas. Misas de Aguinaldo are held for nine consecutive days ending on the day before Christmas Eve. The mass is held at dawn (usually at 6am). 

Misa de Gallo is a Misa de Aguinaldo held at midnight on Christmas Eve. It is a very solemn but festive mass often including carolers, children dressed as angels and nativity characters, and lots of candles. Many families attend this festive and beautiful mass as a tradition. 

Nochebuena is Christmas Eve (December 24th). In Puerto Rico, as well as other Latin American countries, the big holiday celebration is held on Nochebuena. Family and friends get together for a festivities and traditional foods of lechón asado and pasteles. The parties often last till morning. On Christmas Day people rest from Nochebuena. 

Navidad is Christmas Day (December 25th). Most modern Puerto Rican families celebrate with Santa on this day. Homes are decorated much like in the mainland but include a lot of palm trees and their branches. Families set up “nacimientos” or “pesebres”. The Three Wise Men or Los Reyes are prominent in the pesebres.

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Parrandas is Christmas caroling Puerto Rican style. Friends gather late in the evening to go from one house to the next singing traditional songs. The parranderos must surprise the unsuspecting friendS and wake them with their music. The home owner has already given plenty of “hints” that he is prepared to receive a parranda. The parranderos gather outside the front door and at a signal the musicians play and the rest sing. At each house they stop for a while and party, then they go to the next house. At each stop the owners of the house join the parranda and it grows in numbers during the evening. 

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Traditional Holiday Foods – The main dish is usually roast pork served along with arroz con gandules, plátanos, and pasteles. Pasteles are made using mashed green bananas the dough is filled with meat and is wrapped in the leaves of the banana tree. Holiday desserts include “arroz con dulce” (rice cooked with spices, sugar, milk, and coconut milk) and “tembleque” (a custard made with cornstarch, sugar, and coconut milk). They are eaten cold, when its consistency becomes solid. The nougat, imported from Spain, is another popular sweet dish during the Holidays. Coquito is the traditional holiday beverage and is made using coconut milk and rum. A roast pig on a spit, called “lechón asao,” is a traditional day long event that can be done anytime during the Christmas holidays. 

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Víspera de Reyes is the eve of El Día de Reyes (January 5th). Traditional Catholics meet to pray the rosary and to honor the three Wise Men (saints in the Catholic faith). The children get ready to receive gifts from the three Wise Men by collecting freshly cut grass to put in a shoe box for the Wise Men’s camels to eat. 

Día de Reyes is on January 6th. This is much like Christmas on the mainland. Children wake up much too early to check out what Baltazar, Melchor, and Gaspar left them. Family and friends gather to celebrate.

January 6th – Saint Gaspar’s Day of Feast 

January 7th – Saint Melchor’s Day of Feast 

January 8th – Saint Baltazar’s Day of Feast 

Octavas and Octavitas – on January 9th (after the last of the Kings days) and last for eight days. Originally these were more religious in nature and were used to glorify the Reyes and the Christ child. Coplas were dedicated to the magi. Copa: “Se fueron los Reyes con mucha alegría, vienen las octavas – Dios nos de salud para celebrarlas.” Octavitas began right after the Octavas and were eight more days of continued adoration. These were a prelude to la Cuaresma (lent).

More recently . . . . if you received a visit from a friend or relative on Three Kings’ day, you are supposed to return the visit eight days later. Today most families choose this day to take off the Christmas decorations and “officially” end Christmas.

SOURCE

What Did We Do Before There Was Adobo and Packaged ​Sazón​?

Within this cooking journey, I’ve made a concerted effort to make “Puerto Rican Soul Food.” To take my time in the kitchen and create a down­home, back-to-the-basics, slow cooking pot of something my ancestors would be proud of. Waiting for the bay leaf to spread its flavor, allowing the dry beans to soften, enabling the salt to boil out of the bacalao while savoring the beautiful smells of home cooking that fill the air, connecting some of the most memorable senses of my childhood.

I am grateful for these memories and for working parents with little time but immense love and determination to provide quality food for their families. Especially those who throughout the years have struggled and.necessity being the mother of invention, creating something from nothing. Thank you for showing your family your abundance of love through food. Thank you for following these cooking traditions and giving us paths to follow in the kitchen.

I understand there’s little time with the hustle and bustle of life and we want to create short cuts. We may even need to as we have hungry kids who don’t want to wait to eat. Many times those shortcuts are created using an all­-in-­one container or package. The seasonings which are staples in our kitchen, we are now realizing are detrimental to our health. Our primary offenders are Adobo and packaged S​azón. Not ​to mention Maggi and Bouillon cubes which are also universal flavor enhancers, but mostly found in communities of color. On the labels we will find ingredients we can’t pronounce, fake food coloring and artificial flavors. I hope I don’t need to tell you, this is not what I mean by Puerto Rican Soul Food.

achioteThe purpose of ​Sazón​ is generally to give flavor and food coloring to our food. It is an artificial replacement of the annatto/achiote seed. Historically, it is said that the achiote seed was used for body paint and lipstick amongst the our ancestors of the Caribbean islands and the Americas, therefore it was given the name ”lipstick tree.” The achiote seed was later used for food coloring and has become a staple of the Puerto Rican kitchen. In addition to its flavoring, achiote also carries health benefits such as carotenoids for eye-sight and is even linked to anti-­aging agents. We are almost certain that this natural food coloring was utilized and given great importance amongst our African ancestors because of its parallels to dengdeng oil used in Afro-­Brazilian cooking, and palm oil of tropical Africa. Below I will give a recipe for achiote oil, which is utilized for beans, soups, stews and rice. The use of ​Sazón​ is redundant especially when using adobo seasoning because the ingredients are repeated and your food can quickly become unhealthy especially since both are heavy in salt.

Seriously! Don’t feed into the pressures of you not being Latina/o enough because you don’t use the orange short-cut package. These products have been impactful, but have not been on the market that long. Packaged ​Sazón​ was created in the 1960’s. Companies, like Goya, continue to grow and the products are reaching other markets. According to the Washington Post, Goya made $1.3 billion dollars in 2012, making it one of the most profitable companies in the U.S. I believe we should demand better. We should demand healthier options.
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Goya Sazón​ Natural y Completo has MSG, FD&C Yellow 5 and RED 40, and Tricalcium Phosphate. What a freaking joke!!!! What did we do before these packaged seasonings were created? The answer is, we simply cooked!

Adobo ingredients are: MSG, tricalcium phosphate, salt, garlic, oregano, pepper and turmeric.
Sazón ingredients are: ​Monosodium Glutamate, Salt, Dehydrated Garlic, Cumin, Yellow 5, Tricalcium Phosphate(Anti­Caking Agent), Coriander, Annatto (Color), Red 40​. ​The only 3 ingredients I can make out are salt, garlic powder and onion powder.
So here’s my bright idea. Why not use real fresh onions, real fresh garlic, aceite de achiote, paprika and turmeric for food coloring? Use large grain salt like kosher or himalayan salt to better measure your salt intake. I know that your food will taste better and you will cook healthier.
Enclosed I will share some options for adobo, aceite de achiote, and​ sazón​:

Adobo Recipe Ingredients:
● 2 TBSP salt (I use Kosher salt) or use 1-1 1/2 for lower sodium intake.
● 1 TBSP ground black pepper
● 1 TBSP garlic powder
● 1 TBSP dried oregano
● 1⁄2 TBSP turmeric
● 1⁄2 TBSP cumin (optional)
● 1⁄2 TBSP cayenne pepper (optional)

This will make enough for 1 week if you are cooking daily for a family. If you want to use less salt you can simply use 1 tbsp and not 2 tbsp. This can be stored normally as your other dry ingredients. Seasoning blend shelf life is normally 1 to 2 years. If you go over this time period, you may not become ill, but it will be less potent.
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Aceite de Achiote (Achiote oil)
Recipe Ingredients
● 1 cup olive oil
● 2 1/2 tablespoons achiote (annatto) seeds
Prep Time: 1 minutes, Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 11 minutes

PREPARATION
1. Heat the oil and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat just until the seeds begin a steady bubble.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let stand for a minute.
3. Strain the oil.
Tip: Do not overheat the oil and seeds. Overheating will turn the seeds black and bitter. The oil will be ruined.
Achiote seeds

Sazón Recipe Ingredients (Note: many ingredients are shared with Adobo. If you decide to include both Adobo and ​Sazón then you will double salt intake)​:
● 1 TBSP salt (I use Kosher salt)
● 1 TBSP ground black pepper
● 1 TBSP garlic powder
● 1 TBSP dried oregano
● 1 TBSP ground coriander
● 1 TBSP ground cumin
● 1 TBSP ground annatto (or grind your own annatto seeds)
Side notes: Cumin, used in ancient Egypt, India and the Middle East. Cumin was even used as an ingredient for Egyptian mummification.

Coriander, also known as cilantro in Spanish. All of the plant is edible. Seeds are dried and used in spices.

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Boricua Roselyn Sanchez: Hispanics can stop Trump from becoming president

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Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sanchez, who will co-host Sunday’s Miss Universe pageant in Las Vegas, told EFE in an interview that Hispanics have the power to prevent Donald Trump from being elected president.

“I refuse to believe it. I don’t think it’s possible,” Sanchez said Thursday when asked whether the business magnate and Republican candidate could win the 2016 presidential balloting.

“Hispanics have the power to prevent it,” the 42-year-old actress said.

Sanchez, a prominent advocate for the U.S. Hispanic community, bowed out as co-host of the 2015 Miss USA pageant, of which Trump had been part-owner, saying that incendiary remarks by Trump about Mexican immigrants were degrading.

“He said what he said and never apologized,” Sanchez recalled, adding that hearing Trump’s views on Latinos was “devastating” and “sad.”

Trump, a former reality television star who has performed well in early polling ahead of the first Republican primaries, generated controversy when he said most Mexican immigrants crossing the border were a scourge on U.S. society.

“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said in launching his candidacy in June.

The magnate sold the Miss Universe Organization to the WME/IMG agency in September after a legal spat with NBCUniversal, which along with Univision refused to broadcast the Miss USA pageant, held in July, due to Trump’s remarks.

The Miss Universe Organization runs both the Miss USA and Miss Universe competitions.

Sanchez, known for her roles in the film “Rush Hour 2” and the television series “Without a Trace” and “Devious Maids,” said Hispanics were doing “incredible things” in fields as diverse as entertainment, science, politics and business.

In that regard, she said she hoped Latinos would “be able to make their voice heard” in the future no matter who is elected as the next U.S. president.

The actress said she agreed to co-host this year’s Miss Universe along with American comedian Steve Harvey because there were new owners and new people behind this event, which will be held Sunday at the AXIS theater in Las Vegas and televised by FOX.

 

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DOOMED: Inside the Billion-Dollar Battle for Puerto Rico’s Future

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The money poured in by the millions, then by the hundreds of millions, and finally by the billions. Over weak coffee in a conference room in Midtown Manhattan last year, a half-dozen Puerto Rican officials exhaled: Their cash-starved island had persuaded some of the country’s biggest hedge funds to lend them more than $3 billion to keep the government afloat.

There were plenty of reasons for the hedge funds to like the deal: They would be earning, in effect, a 20 percent return. And under the island’s Constitution, Puerto Rico was required to pay back its debt before almost any other bills, whether for retirees’ health care or teachers’ salaries.

But within months, Puerto Rico was saying it had run out of money, and the relationship between the impoverished United States territory and its unlikely saviors fell apart, setting up an extraordinary political and financial fight over Puerto Rico’s future.

On the surface, it is a battle over whether Puerto Rico should be granted bankruptcy protections, putting at risk tens of billions of dollars from investors around the country. But it is also testing the power of an ascendant class of ultrarich Americans to steer the fate of a territory that is home to more than three million fellow citizens.

The investors with a stake in the outcome are some of the wealthiest people in America. Many of them have also taken on an outsize role in financing political campaigns in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. They have put millions of dollars behind candidates of both parties, including Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. Some belong to a small circle of 158 families that provided half of the early money for the 2016 presidential race.

To block proposals that would put their investments at risk, a coalition of hedge funds and financial firms has hired dozens of lobbyists, forged alliances with Tea Partyactivists and recruited so-called AstroTurf groups on the island to make their case. This approach — aggressive legal maneuvering, lobbying and the deployment of prodigious wealth — has proved successful overseas, in countries like Argentina and Greece, yielding billions in profit amid economic collapse.

The pressure has been widely felt. Senator Marco Rubio, whose state, Florida, has a large Puerto Rican population, expressed interest this year in sponsoring bankruptcy legislation for the island, says Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. Mr. Rubio’s staff even joined in drafting the bill. But this summer, three weeks after a fund-raiser hosted by a hedge-fund founder, Mr. Rubio broke with those backing the measure. Bankruptcy, he said, should be considered only as a “last resort.”

And this past week, House Republican leaders said any financial rescue for Puerto Rico may not come until the end of March.

The fight over the island’s future is stretching from the oceanside neighborhoods of San Juan, where a growing number of wealthy investors and financial professionals have migrated in recent years to exploit generous tax breaks, to Capitol Hill. Their efforts are being closely watched by financial institutions, labor unions and policy makers on the mainland, where many ordinary investors own Puerto Rican bonds through mutual funds.

Stephen J. Spencer, a restructuring expert representing Puerto Rico bondholders including some hedge funds, said letting the government renege on agreements with hedge funds and other investors would set a dangerous precedent, undermining the integrity of the bond market.

“It’s really a wealth transfer from the bondholders to the municipalities,” Mr. Spencer said.

Others fear a different precedent: A handful of wealthy investors, they argue, are trying to rewrite the social contract of an entire United States territory. Puerto Rican officials say they have already cut public services and slashed central government spending by a fifth to keep ahead of payments to the hedge funds and financiers.

“What they are doing, by getting all the resources for themselves, is undermining the viability of Puerto Rico as a commonwealth,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist. “They want their money now, and they want to get the rules set so that they can make money for the next 20 years.”

A Bet on Resurgence

Along Ashford Avenue in San Juan’s Condado district, newly renovated hotels gleam beside shops like Gucci and Cartier. Slightly to the west are new high-rise condominiums, known as WeCo, or West Condado, by an enterprising real estate agent originally from Manhattan. Still farther west, not far from the Capitol in Old San Juan, a new development named the Paseo Caribe makes a more explicit pitch to potential buyers: “The Puerto Rico Advantage: Sun, Sand and Zero Taxes,” the development’s website promises.

This was supposed to help solve Puerto Rico’s problems. The commonwealth has been in a depression for over a decade. Pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers have fled the island, followed by young Puerto Ricans looking for jobs, draining the island’s work force and tax base. Forty percent of the island’s residents live in poverty.

Three years ago, in a bid to lure financial services firms and other employers, Puerto Rico’s governor at that time, Luis Fortuño, a Republican, signed laws intended to turn the island into a domestic tax haven. Americans who relocated to Puerto Rico, spent at least half a year there and brought their company with them would pay no federal income or capital gains taxes.

Private-equity magnates, hedge funds and investment advisers began moving to the island. They settled in Condado and a handful of coastal enclaves like the Dorado Beach Resort, where the billionaire investor Toby Neugebauer, who provided $10 million to the presidential campaign of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, bought a home.

John Paulson, the hedge fund investor and leading Republican donor, snapped up resort properties and fading resort hotels, betting on a resurgence. Puerto Rico, Mr. Paulson told an investor conference last year, would become “the Singapore of the Caribbean.” This spring, at his urging, the island even rented a booth at the hedge fund industry’s annual conference at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, where two attractive women pitched Puerto Rico’s charms to guests.

It was not the first time that Puerto Rico had turned to Wall Street for help. For decades, the island had been borrowing money to pay its bills. Puerto Rico’s bonds were particularly attractive to mutual funds because they were exempt from federal, state and local taxes in all 50 states. But in 2013, after the island’s general obligation bonds were downgraded, they caught the attention of a different sort of investor: hedge funds specializing in distressed assets.

These funds began buying up the debt at a steep discount, confident that this was a bet they could not lose. Not only were the bonds guaranteed by the Puerto Rican Constitution, but under a wrinkle of federal law, the island’s public corporations and municipalities — unlike those of the 50 states — do not have bankruptcy as a recourse.

When the investment bank Lazard hosted a discussion for investors on Puerto Rico in October 2013, so many people showed up that some had to stand. By the next spring, as the island’s economic situation worsened, virtually no one else was willing to lend to Puerto Rico.

A round of spending cuts and tax increases by Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, the Democrat who succeeded Mr. Fortuño, had not produced enough cash to keep up with the island’s earlier debts. A prospectus circulated for the March 2014 bond offering — which raised the $3.5 billion that Mr. Padilla hoped would buy time for a recovery — warned in boldface type of “significant risks.”

Nevertheless, some of the biggest hedge funds kept buying, drawn by the promise of what was a 20 percent return, based on the interest rate coupled with the tax exemption. Mr. Paulson’s firm purchased bonds in March 2014, as did Appaloosa Management, founded by David Tepper; Marathon Asset Management; BlueMountain Capital Management; and Monarch Alternative Capital, said Puerto Rico officials involved in the sale.

The recovery never arrived. The $3.5 billion ran out. And Puerto Rico now owes its creditors in excess of $70 billion, a bigger debt load than all but two states. As much as a third of it is owed to hedge funds, according to some estimates.

The Bankruptcy Option

Early this year, with Puerto Rico’s economic outlook darkening, the island’s nonvoting member of the House of Representatives, Pedro R. Pierluisi, made what he thought was a modest proposal.

He introduced a bill that would change federal law to allow Puerto Rico’s struggling municipalities and public corporations, such as the island’s power authority, to declare bankruptcy. It would affect only about a third of the island’s debt, Mr. Pierluisi told Republican colleagues in Congress. It would also give Puerto Rico the same right as most states and leverage against creditors — so-called Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. And it would cost taxpayers nothing.

Republicans in the House seemed receptive, as were some conservative groups. Even some of Puerto Rico’s other creditors liked the idea: If public corporations could shed some of their debt, it would free up more money to repay other bondholders. (The power authority’s financial troubles were being felt on the island, and not only by locals: Last summer, one of Mr. Paulson’s luxury hotels lost electricity, briefly forcing the use of a backup generator.)

“We were given to understand by his staff that they were very interested in the bill and in fact were going to co-sponsor it,” Mr. Blumenthal said in an interview. Puerto Rico’s government officials also believed Mr. Rubio intended to support the legislation.

In the weeks that followed, the staffs of the two senators worked together on the legislation. “To give them credit, his team made contributions to the substance of the bill,” Mr. Blumenthal said.

But opponents were organizing against the measure, led by firms that owned debt from Puerto Rico’s power authority, according to federal lobbying records and other documents. Among them were two mutual funds — Oppenheimer Funds and Franklin Templeton — and hedge funds, some specializing in distressed debt: the D.E. Shaw Group and Angelo Gordon, along with Marathon and BlueMountain.

The hedge funds were among the largest in the world, with a combined tens of billions of dollars under management. Some of their founders and principals were also donating large sums in the presidential campaign. David E. Shaw of D.E. Shaw has given more than $800,000 to Mrs. Clinton and groups supporting her campaign. (Mrs. Clinton has called on Congress to pass the bill.) John Angelo of Angelo Gordon has put a quarter of a million dollars behind Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. And Richard Ronzetti, a partner at Marathon, has given $30,000 to groups linked to Mr. Bush.

Proponents of the bill mounted their own campaign, recruiting island businesses, bankruptcy experts and groups like Americans for Tax Reform, which argued that forgiving some of the debts would be better than plowing additional federal money into the island. Mr. Padilla’s government hired SKD Knickerbocker, a public-affairs firm with close ties to the White House.

But the hedge funds hit upon a novel lobbying strategy: Mobilize conservative opposition by attacking Mr. Pierluisi’s bill — and by implication any broader bankruptcy attempt by the island — as a “bailout.” Because allowing the island to restructure its debt would cost their investors money, the funds argued, it was no different from the much-reviled taxpayer-funded bailout of the big banks after the financial crisis in 2008.

Puerto Rico could not now gain access to bankruptcy protections that it had not been entitled to when it borrowed the money, the funds argued. And, they suspected, there was still revenue hiding within the island’s opaque books, as well as cuts to be made to its oversize bureaucracy.

In a letter circulated to Republican staff members in February and obtained by The New York Times, representatives for BlueMountain, a $22 billion firm headquartered on New York’s Park Avenue, warned that the bill would put the bondholders at a disadvantage in any fight over Puerto Rico’s debt. Bankruptcy, they said, would inevitably prioritize those with pension claims over the island’s creditors, as had been the case when Detroit declared bankruptcy in 2013.

“Chapter 9 proceedings bail out Puerto Rico on the backs of the very bondholders Congress incentivized to invest in Puerto Rican municipal bonds,” they wrote.

Reaching out to lawmakers and to Republican presidential candidates, the financial firms quickly recruited allies. Tea Party groups, usually the harshest critics of Wall Street lobbyists, joined the fray.

The bill was “nothing but a backdoor, taxpayer-funded bailout for Puerto Rico,” Jenny Beth Martin, the national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, wrote in a March letter to the House Judiciary Committee. (Asked in an interview to identify the taxpayer funds at risk in the bill, Ms. Martin said, “I don’t know that I can answer that.” She added: “It’s more bailouts for bad decisions, expecting us to help take care of things that we should not be responsible for.”)

When it came time to introduce the legislation on the Senate floor in July, Mr. Rubio held off. “We delayed the actual formal introduction of the bill while we were waiting for a final answer from Senator Rubio, and at some point, we said: ‘We need to go. Does he want to be a part of it, or does he want us to go ahead without him?’” Mr. Blumenthal recalled. “The answer we got was, go ahead without him. We never learned why.”

In September, on the eve of a campaign visit to Puerto Rico, Mr. Rubio abandoned the idea entirely In an essay on the website Medium and in Puerto Rico’s largest daily newspaper, he wrote that bankruptcy should be considered only as a “last resort” if the island first took “significant steps to fix its budget and economic mess,” echoing a refrain among Republicans in Congress.

Mr. Rubio’s move was welcome news for bondholders, some of whom have supported his presidential campaign. Monarch’s founder, Andrew Herenstein, co-hosted two fund-raisers for Mr. Rubio’s presidential bid, one over the summer in the Hamptons, the other in Manhattan in October. A spokesman for Mr. Herenstein declined to comment.

A spokesman for Mr. Rubio said his views on the legislation were unrelated to campaign donations. “Given Marco’s interest in Puerto Rico issues, our office did the due diligence of reviewing the bankruptcy bill, as well as other possible solutions, and meeting with stakeholders,” he said. “Marco ultimately decided not to support it, because he believes Puerto Rico’s leaders should first pursue other fiscal reforms with Chapter 9 being a last resort.”

Unsustainable

In June, 16 months after the hedge funds had come to Puerto Rico’s rescue, Governor Padilla rattled trading floors around the country. Puerto Rico, he said, was in a “death spiral.” It could no longer pay its debts.

Only weeks earlier, his administration had hired as an adviser the retired judge who had overseen Detroit’s bankruptcy. Puerto Rico had also released a report by a former chief economist of the World Bank, warning that its debt load was unsustainable.

The pressure put Mr. Rubio in an awkward position. Tea Party activists had helped elect him in 2010, wealthy Wall Street donors had embraced him as a rising star in the years since, and he was now entering an intense Republican presidential primary campaign against better-credentialed conservatives.

In October, amid the impasse over Mr. Pierluisi’s bill, the Obama administration weighed in with an even more ambitious plan. It proposed to create a new form of bankruptcy for United States territories, which would restructure all of the island’s debt — and put all of the financial firms’ investments at risk.

Relations between Mr. Padilla and the hedge funds he had once courted soured, and the investors intensified their fight. Several more hedge funds hired Washington lobbyists. Puerto Rico, now looming as potentially the biggest government bankruptcy in American history, the lobbyists warned, could carve a path for cities and states around the country to escape their debts without reforming their governments.

Hedge funds commissioned their own economic study of the island’s finances, which concluded that further cuts to public spending, in particular to education and health care, would allow the island to keep up.

Some of the investors also tapped into an existing network of conservative nonprofit groups that in recent years has become a major conduit for moving large, anonymous contributions into lobbying and campaign activity.

This fall, a conservative group called the 60 Plus Association, based in Alexandria, Va., unleashed a wide-ranging media and lobbying effort against a restructuring and Governor Padilla, whom it accused of “manufacturing a crisis” and trying to “extort” money from Congress.

The group cast the victims of a bankruptcy as ordinary Puerto Ricans and retirees who owned government-issued bonds. In November, 60 Plus recruited a group of these individuals, calling them “Main Street Bondholders,” for a news conference in San Juan.

“Do these folks look like vultures to you?” asked Matthew Kandrach, the vice president of 60 Plus, who apologized for not speaking Spanish. “I want the governor to see these faces.”

Exactly who the group was speaking for was unclear. Puerto Ricans own less than a fifth of the island’s debt, according to government officials. And while 60 Plus claims to represent millions of seniors, most of the group’s revenue comes from a few large, anonymous contributions, according to its most recent tax return.

Two Republicans briefed on the arrangement said 60 Plus had been recruited by the DCI Group, a Republican public relations firm that specializes in “AstroTurfing” — orchestrated lobbying campaigns designed to look like grass-roots efforts. DCI’s clients include the hedge fund BlueMountain Capital, which has been one of the most aggressive opponents of federal intervention in Puerto Rico.

DCI declined to comment. Asked about the arrangement, Mr. Kandrach responded: “When it helps us better serve and represent our seniors, we are proud to partner with firms such as DCI who offer valuable logistical support to getting our message out.”

Hedge fund executives and their allies also pressed their case in private meetings with key members of Congress and their staffs. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Utah’s Orrin G. Hatch, met with a representative for funds owning general obligation bonds, as well as with Puerto Rico officials. Several firms with investments in Puerto Rico have been among the leading sources of donations to Mr. Hatch’s campaign and leadership PAC in recent years.

In early December, Governor Padilla made a final plea to Mr. Hatch’s panel for bankruptcy relief. “This is a distress call from a ship of 3.5 million American citizens that have been lost at sea,” the governor said.

Mr. Hatch was unmoved, reading a long statement raising doubts about the wisdom of bankruptcy. He suggested that broader changes to Puerto Rico’s government were necessary.

A little more than a week later, Mr. Hatch blocked an effort to bring Mr. Pierluisi’s bankruptcy legislation to a vote. He soon offered his own proposal: To respond to the island’s humanitarian needs, Congress would provide $3 billion to Puerto Rico if it submitted to federal financial oversight. It was the approach favored by bondholders. It was also, in effect, a bailout.

Supporters of the bankruptcy bill clung to the hope that congressional leaders would insert a provision in its end-of-year spending bill allowing Puerto Rico to restructure at least some of its debt. But when the bill was unveiled on Tuesday, it contained no such language.

The island remains in negotiations with the financial firms that own its debt. Without the possibility of bankruptcy, its only leverage is the threat of default.

The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, said on Wednesday that lawmakers would try to come up with a solution by the end of March.

A reckoning could come sooner: On Jan. 1, bond payments of $1.4 billion will be due. No one is quite sure if the island can pay.

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