18 posts

Packed House for Borinqueneers Ceremony

Manuel Siverio
Ret. Col. Manuel Siverio (r) receives the Congressional Gold Medal from House Speaker Paul Ryan on behalf of all living Borinqueneers. /All photos are screen shots taken from C-Span

Puerto Rico’s Borinqueneer veterans received the Congressional Gold Medal in a moving ceremony this week on Capitol Hill, placing the soldiers in the legendary company of the all black Tuskegee Airmen and the Navajo Code Talkers, among others.

“Today we are setting the record straight,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan at the beginning of the hour-long ceremony attended by hundreds about the unit considered the last segregated one in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“Lord, forgive us for segregating our Puerto Rican and Latino soldiers and for being slow to recognize them,” said Senate Chaplain Barry Black.

“I wish we could have honored you with this medal sooner,” commented Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who along with Puerto Rico delegate Pedro Pierliusi and Florida Cong. Bill Posey (R-Titusville), was one of many co-sponsors of the bill that recognized the nation’s surviving 1,000 Borinqueneers, many of whom now live in Florida.

“It’s easy to lose spirit as the good name our home is tarnished,” remarked Pierluisi, alluding to Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. “The Borinqueneers remind me … why we’re so proud to be Puerto Rican at a time when our sense of pride has been shaken but never, never shattered. Puerto Rico has always had this nation’s back at times of crisis.”

The Borinqueneers, an Army unit created shortly after the United States took over Puerto Rico in 1898, received 250 Silver Stars, over 600 Bronze medals and more than 2,700 Purple Hearts – just in the Korean War, to which the unit added this week’s Congressional Gold Medal.

“It was the bloodiest war for Puerto Rico,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Ret. Col. and Borinqueneer Manuel Siverio received the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of the military unit. “I accept this medal in the name of all living Borinqueneers,” Siverio said, noting that over 100 Borinqueneers remain missing in action and their remains have never been recovered.

You can watch the ceremony on C-Span by clicking: Congressional Gold Medal

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor


Puerto Rico Offers 74 Cents on the Dollar


La Fortaleza
La Fortaleza, headquarters of the government of Puerto Rico. /La Fortaleza

Puerto Rico offered to pay 74 cents on the dollar to holders of its most secure bonds, or those guaranteed by the island’s constitution. Investors in less secure bonds would get between 57 cents and 36 cents.

That proposal covers about $49 billion of the island’s total $72 billion in debt, and is sweeter than an earlier plan that affected only $26 billion in debt. For comparison purposes, Argentina last month offered 75 cents on the dollar to bondholders of $4.65 billion in debt – and it was accepted, ending years of tension.

The clock is ticking as Puerto Rico owes two upcoming debt payments – $422 million on May 1 and $2 billion in July. Debt payments are soaking up nearly one-third of Puerto Rico’s operating funds, affecting public services.

The island’s debt crisis affects Florida, home to the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the states. The largest number lives right here in Central Florida, where thousands start over each year. (Puerto Rico has been in an economic recession for 10 years.) And it has spilled over to the presidential campaign, as candidates propose solutions to appeal to Puerto Rican voters.

In 2015 Puerto Rico defaulted on lesser amounts of debt, generating lawsuits. A new default would likely  generate more court action.

Last month Congress proposed legislation to alleviate the island’s financial crisis, including creating a financial oversight board that many islanders consider a “takeover” and a violation of Puerto Rico’s limited self government. Puerto Rico wants some island agencies to be able to declare federal bankruptcy, a proposal rejected by Congress and major debtors who call it a “bailout.”

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide later this year whether Puerto Rico agencies can declare bankruptcy under local law.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor