In default, Puerto Rico faces ongoing fiscal pain

John W. Schoen | @johnwschoen – CNBC.com

Alvin Baez | Reuters The power station Central Palo Seco of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico

Alvin Baez | Reuters
The power station Central Palo Seco of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico

The power station Central Palo Seco of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Alvin Baez | Reuters
The power station Central Palo Seco of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority on the outskirts of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Like a homeowner with too big a mortgage, Puerto Rico has finally started falling behind on its payments.

And it doesn’t look like there’s an easy way to refinance its huge pile of debt to make it more affordable.

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced Wednesday that the Caribbean island territory will be able to make most — but not all — of the nearly $1 billion in interest payments due Jan. 4. He told reporters he plans to meet with bondholders in early January.

The down-to-the-wire negotiations over just which bondholders will get paid centered on a haphazard juggling act that saw the commonwealth shuffling funds from one account to another to pay its debts. That “clawback” process will likely be the subject of a series of lawsuits from investors who won’t get paid what they’re legally owed.

While the short-term crisis has been building for years, the long-term outlook remains grim.

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