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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ex-Gov. Calderón to resume Special Communities flagship project

Former Gov. Sila María Calderón

By The Star Staff

Former Gov. Sila María Calderón revealed Tuesday that her foundation will resume the Special Communities program, which was her flagship project during her tenure in La Fortaleza.

“This is something that I carry in my soul, and it is my life project. Since I arrived at Cantera, my life has not been the same,” Calderón said. “And this coming year, we are going to devote the work of my foundation to the Special Communities. […] We are going to adapt our programs to the special communities, to the extent we can; obviously I no longer have the billion [dollars] that I had as governor.”

The former Popular Democratic Party governor’s program was blamed for the insolvency problem at the now defunct Government Development Bank [GDB] because the governor used $1 billion in the bank’s capital money for projects in thousands of needy communities. Calderón has denied the allegation.

“When I came to government, after the administration of a person I will not mention, the government coffers were bled dry. There was no money to pay the first payroll,” she said in a radio Isla report. “There were more than 30,000 checks written but without funds. The Development Bank was bleeding. […] It is only two years, or almost three years into my administration that I then make my proposal for the billion [dollars], because there were already some for the special communities. And I am happy and I have no regrets.”

Created to help Puerto Rico’s economy, the GDB evolved and its role expanded to include, among other services, acting as a financing backstop for fiscal losses of the government, its agencies, municipalities, and public corporations. The GDB was also called upon to provide financial support during periods of financial distress, leveraging its strong credit rating, reputation, access to the capital markets and its constructive relationship with the investment community to provide financial support to troubled public entities and assist them in regaining financial stability.

Due to the expansion of services over time and a confluence of other decisions and actions, the GDB found itself immersed in a fiscal and viability crisis. The loss of its investment grade rating in 2014, the resulting loss of market access, and the decision by the government to default on appropriation debt in 2015, left the GDB with significant non-performing assets, limited available liquidity, and the inability to repay its debts.

The former governor, meanwhile, refused to answer questions about her relationship with former husband Ramón Cantero Frau, but she did talk about the cancer diagnosis she received after her divorce.

“I didn’t have to have chemotherapy, only radiotherapy,” she added. “That becomes known now. I have things, I take care of myself.”

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