SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – After Puerto Ricans marked the anniversary of Hurricane Maria, federal control board overseeing Puerto Rico’s finances finalized a debt-restructuring deal on Friday that represents nearly a quarter of the U.S. territory’s $70 billion public debt load.
Puerto Rico is in a 12-year recession and still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, which caused the deaths of nearly 3,000 people and cause more than an estimated $100 billion in damage.
In an interview with Local 10 News, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said most of the problems the island faces are because the U.S. federal government has long treated Puerto Ricans as second-class citizens.
"We need to solve the century-old problem of colonialism in Puerto Rico," Rossello said.
There was progress on Friday. The federal control board said that the deal will be presented next month to a federal judge assigned to Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy case. Officials said the deal represents more than $17 billion in debt service savings.
The agreement involves several groups including those that hold Puerto Rico sales tax bonds. The board said those who hold general obligation bond debt also support the agreement, which economists say could indicate an upcoming deal with them.