Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said on Friday that he was "committed to establishing a working relationship" and fostering "open dialogue" with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, after the two met in Washington, D.C., Reuters reported. Rossello, who took office on Jan. 2, met with Mnuchin to discuss his efforts to "put Puerto Rico's financial house in order," a statement from the governor's office said. Rossello has signed more than 20 bills and executive orders aimed at cutting spending and fostering economic growth, but Puerto Rico faces a long haul out of an economic crisis characterized by a 45 percent poverty rate, near-insolvent public pensions and healthcare systems, and almost $70 billion in debt. Under former President Barack Obama, the Treasury took a hands-on approach in Puerto Rico, working with federal lawmakers on legislation aimed at giving the U.S. territory a way to cut debt. President Donald Trump has given little indication of how his administration may handle Puerto Rico. The island's finances are under the supervision of a federally appointed board. Rossello on Tuesday is scheduled to present the board with a 10-year blueprint for the island's fiscal turnaround. Read more.
In related news, the federally appointed board tasked with managing Puerto Rico's finances hired retired attorney Jaime A. El Koury, formerly of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, as its general counsel, it said on Thursday, Reuters reported. El Koury, a graduate of Yale Law School, will lead the board in helping the U.S. territory restructure some $70 billion in debt. Cleary was counsel to the Puerto Rican government during ex-Governor Alejandro García Padilla's administration, from 2014 to 2016. El Koury retired from Cleary in 2014 and did not work on the Puerto Rico matter while at the firm, board spokesman Jose Cedeno said. New Governor Ricardo Rossello, who criticized García Padilla's fiscal policies and legislative initiatives during last year's campaign, fired Cleary when he took office on Jan. 2. Read more.
For more news and analysis of Puerto Rico's debt crisis, be sure to visit ABI's "Puerto Rico in Distress" webpage.