Today in Brief
Hernández Presents Amendments to Debt Moratorium Act
A group of 21 House representatives, headed by Treasury Committee Chairman Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, introduced Wednesday amendments to the law that will allow the commonwealth to stop payments on debt. The amendments were presented barely hours after Gov. Alejandro García Padilla signed the debt moratorium bill into law.
Hernández voted in favor of the bill after insisting during the debate that he was going to cast a vote against it unless general obligation (GO) bonds, which are backed by the commonwealth’s full faith and credit, were excluded from the proposed debt moratorium.
Caribbean Business learned that La Fortaleza agreed to his demands, urging him to present the amendments, in exchange for his vote because the government wanted to stamp his signature on the measure as soon as possible.
Prepa Extends Bond Purchase Agreement
Following the enactment of the bill that will allow the government to issue a debt moratorium, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) announced Wednesday that it was extending the deadline for the bond purchase agreement contained in the restructuring support arrangement.
Prepa was slated to present the bond purchase agreement today (Thursday) to the Energy Commission. The statement said the new date will be revealed after advisors evaluate the debt moratorium, which became law Wednesday. In a statement, Javier Quintana Méndez, Prepa Executive Director, said that restructuring advisors have been in continuous conversations with creditors on the implications of the debt moratorium law, officially known as the Puerto Rico Emergency Moratorium and Financial Rehabilitation Act.
Cruz’s Winning Ways Have Yet to Win over Fellow GOP Senators
Sen. Ted Cruz is increasingly winning over voters to his presidential bid. He’s still not winning over fellow Republican senators. The Texas Republican is notorious for alienating his colleagues with tactics including pushing a fruitless government shutdown in 2013 and accusing the Senate majority leader of lying. They’re now paying it back by refusing to get on board with his presidential bid even as he emerges as the likeliest alternative to businessman Donald Trump following a commanding win Tuesday night in Wisconsin.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has made a half-hearted endorsement of Cruz, predicted Wednesday that more establishment support would be swinging behind the Texas freshman senator. Graham, a short-lived candidate himself, is advancing the argument that while the erratic Trump would destroy the GOP for generations to come by turning off women and minorities, Cruz is at least a reliable Republican with a steady foreign policy outlook who shares his colleagues’ views on most issues.
Clinton and Sanders Clash Over Presidential Qualifications
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign fired back at her rival Bernie Sanders after the Vermont senator questioned whether she is “qualified” to be president. In a fundraising email sent late Wednesday, Hillary for America’s deputy communications director, Christina Reynolds, rebuked Sanders’ accusations, saying it was “a ridiculous and irresponsible attack for someone to make — not just against the person who is almost certainly going to be the nominee of their party this November, but against someone who is one of the most qualified people to run for the presidency in the history of the United States.”
Sanders told a crowd of more than 10,000 people at Temple University’s Liacouras Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday that Clinton has been saying lately that she thinks that I am quote-unquote not qualified to be president.” “I don’t believe that she is qualified if she is, through her super PAC, taking tens of millions of dollars in special-interest funds,” he said.
Sanders also said Clinton is not qualified because of her vote for the war in Iraq and her support for trade agreements that he says are harmful to American workers.
IS militants abduct 300 cement workers near Syrian capital
In a brazen assault near the Syrian capital, Islamic State militants on Thursday abducted 300 cement workers and contractors in an area northeast of Damascus, Syrian state TV reported as fighting elsewhere in the country also worsened.
Meanwhile, the U.N. special envoy for Syria said the next round of peace talks in Geneva was expected to start next week, around April 13. Staffan de Mistura said the new round should focus on a political process that he hoped would lead to a “concrete or real beginning of a political transition.”
State TV said Thursday’s mass abduction of workers from the al-Badia Cement Company took place in Dumeir, an area where militants launched a surprise attack against government forces earlier this week. State-run news agency SANA quoted a source in the company as saying that there has been no success in efforts to establish contact with any of the workers.
Venezuela orders long weekends to stave off power crisis
Public employees in Venezuela will take long weekends under the government’s latest bid to ease a nationwide power crisis. President Nicolás Maduro announced late Wednesday that he would sign a decree giving state workers Fridays off for 60 days, a move that drew scorn from critics who said the employees would just go home and turn on the lights and air conditioning.
Officials have been warning for weeks that the water level behind the nation’s largest dam has fallen to near its minimum operating level. Almost 70% of the South American country’s electricity comes from the Guri Dam, which holds back the Caroni River in the southeastern state of Bolivar. If water levels fall too low, the government will have to shut down the dam entirely, crippling electricity supply.
Maduro’s socialist administration blames the crisis on a drought caused by the El Niño weather phenomenon and acts of sabotage by its opponents. But experts say rationing could have been prevented had the government invested in maintenance and in the construction of thermoelectric plants.