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Debt Payment Due for Puerto Rico Tuesday As Congress Holds Hearing

Puerto Rico faced a $354 million debt payment Tuesday as the island's governor headed to another congressional hearing on its crisis.

Six months since Puerto Rico’s governor declared the U.S. territory’s $72 billion debt unable to be paid, little relief has come its way as the U.S. Congress continues to hold hearings on what to do about its fiscal crisis.

The nervousness, anguish, outrage, opposition and congressional commiserating were on a collision course Tuesday, the deadline for a $354 million payment for Puerto Rico, and Wednesday.

Backers of proposals to allow Puerto Rico to restructure its debt through a bankruptcy process often used by U.S. cities were to begin gathering in Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee was to hold another hearing on Puerto Rico’s crisis. Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla is among the witnesses at a 10 a.m. hearing being held by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After the hearing, critics of Puerto Rico’s pleas for the bankruptcy filing authority planned to hold a news conference with their opposition to letting Puerto Rico off the hook on the bonds.

As of Monday afternoon, Puerto Rico was undecided on whether let the deadline pass without payment, thus defaulting and potentially setting off a court battle. The island’s Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a news conference that decision would be made Tuesday.

This payment is for Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico bonds. On January 1, Puerto Rico faces another deadline for about $300 million on general bonds whose payment is backed by the island’s constitution.

“People in Puerto Rico are nervous. They don’t know what is going to happen. Every day it’s something new,” said Federico de Jesus, a political and media strategist in Washington, D.C.

Some of the concerns will be taken to members of Congress Wednesday, when Puerto Rico backers planned to hold a National Day of Action. Along with a news conference featuring members of Congress, various Puerto Rican leaders planned to press for action in one on one meetings with congressional members who agree to meet with them or with their staff.

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