Puerto Rico unions halt protests

Union leaders have called off island-wide protests while a special commission looks for answers to a fiscal crisis that has partially closed the government and eroded the credit rating of this U.S. territory.

Though some 150 protesting teachers blocked traffic on Tuesday at a port in San Juan where cruise ships dock, Puerto Rico's three biggest unions, which represent most of the more than 95,000 furloughed public employees, instead urged politicians to resolve the crisis, now in its ninth day.

The commission was expected to announce its recommendations Wednesday evening.

"We believe the committee created last night should work in peace," union leaders said in a statement.

The commission, which consists of a former head of the island's Office of Management and Budget, a retired Puerto Rican Supreme Court judge, an economist and a one-time economic adviser to the legislature, was charged with resolving Puerto Rico's budget shortfall, which forced the governor to temporarily shutter 43 government agencies and nearly 1,600 schools.

The island's government ran out of money two months before the end of the fiscal year, while Puerto Rico is operating off its 2004 budget because the governor and the legislature have failed to agree on spending plans.

Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila and leaders of the opposition-controlled legislature have agreed in principle to accept the commission's recommendations, although opposition lawmakers on Tuesday squabbled about having the final say on legislation.

"Those that have the power to legislate are the legislators," said Pedro Rossello, head of the New Progressive Party, reports the AP.

I.L.

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