Puerto Rico governor’s campaign announcement likely to come Monday

Reuters By Nick

Puerto Rico's governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla addresses the legislature about a billion-dollar cut in public spending and his new economic initiatives, in San Juan in this April 29, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Ana Martinez-Santiago/Files

Puerto Rico’s governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla addresses the legislature about a billion-dollar cut in public spending and his new economic initiatives, in San Juan in this April 29, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Ana Martinez-Santiago/Files

SAN JUAN (Reuters) – Puerto Rico’s governor will address the island on Monday, his press secretary tweeted on Saturday, and local media reported that he will not seek reelection as the island battles economic crisis and $72 billion in debt.

Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla “will offer a message to the country” on Monday afternoon, Public Affairs Secretary Jesus Manuel Ortiz tweeted in Spanish.

The governor had been scheduled to reveal by the end of this week whether he would seek a second four-year term in next November’s election, and some local media had reported earlier on Saturday that an announcement would come on Sunday.

Ortiz’s tweet, published Saturday night, suggests it will come Monday, and a source close to the matter told Reuters he expects Monday’s announcement to be about candidacy.

Garcia Padilla is expected not to seek reelection as Puerto Rico struggles with ongoing recession. Local media outlets, including Caribbean Business and El Vocero, reported on Saturday that the governor would announce that he will not run.

The U.S. territory on Jan. 1 owes $332 million of debt backed by constitutional guarantees, which it has said it can only afford if it begins defaulting on other debt. Garcia Padilla has called for concessions from bondholders, but has faced resistance to cuts on repayments.

The governor has lobbied U.S. federal lawmakers to pass legislation making it easier for Puerto Rico to restructure its debt, but federal intervention is not seen as likely this year.

In the meantime, Garcia Padilla is battling low public approval ratings, icy relations with the island’s creditors, eroding support within his own Popular Democratic party, and a federal investigation into whether people in his administration exchanged favors for campaign donations.

In Garcia Padilla’s absence, his former secretary of state, David Bernier, is expected to launch a campaign as a Popular Democratic party candidate.

Leading candidates from the rival New Progressive Party (PNP) – which is generally more creditor-friendly – include Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s non-voting representative in Congress, and Ricky Rossello, a lobbyist and son of a popular ex-governor.

(Reporting by Nick Brown; Editing by David Gregorio)

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