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Puerto Rico - Fourth Quarter 2017 Review


By Shaun Burgess


'The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico entered the fourth quarter having suffered one of the most devastating natural disasters in the island's history. Hurricane Maria left billions of dollars in damage in its wake, including both infrastructure damage and economic losses. The human costs have been equally terrible, with millions of US citizens suffering.

Three months later and the lights are still out - only 70% of power has been restored. Many businesses remain closed due to the lack of electricity and the high costs of using diesel generators. An estimated 20-30% of the island's 65,000 businesses may close permanently. Residents have fled to the mainland in the wake of the hurricanes. According to a study by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York, the island's population is expected to decrease by 14% to 2.9 million people by 2019, as residents flee the devastation. Whether they return remains questionable. The deeper the roots they establish on the mainland, the less likely they are to return home. Hurricane Maria has magnified an already exceedingly complex situation. Rebuilding will take months, a full recovery, years.' -

Jesús Santiago, a funeral home manager in Ponce, P.R. Deaths on the island were likely to continue rising in the wake of Hurricane Maria, he said. Credit Erika P. Rodriguez for The New York Times

Puerto Rico Deaths Spike, but Few Are Attributed to Hurricane



"PONCE, P.R. — Almost two months after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, there were more signs of how unsettled the situation remains here and how grievous the toll of the storm was.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that it was finalizing extraordinary plans to fly about 3,000 residents of Puerto Rico still living in shelters to New York and Florida.

“Transportation assistance is something that I don’t think we have done previously,” Will Booher, a FEMA spokesman, said. “But this is unique to what’s going on in Puerto Rico.” The agency said the relief effort was being undertaken at the request of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

FEMA regularly finds housing for hurricane victims, often at hotels or motels nearby. But because there is so little available lodging on the island, and no easy way to get people from shelters to safe housing, the agency is arranging charter flights for residents, beginning with those still in shelters.

On Wednesday, Puerto Rico officials, facing increasing questions about the accuracy of the official death toll from the storm, acknowledged for the first time that 472 more people died this September compared with the same month last year. The storm made landfall on Sept. 20. The government’s official death toll is 55."


Central Jerseyans come to aid of Puerto Rico

, Courier News and Home Tribune


"Financial donations are being accepted by United for Puerto Rico, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and the Puerto Rican Congress of New Jersey and its New Jersey Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief to purchase products to quickly and efficiently meet the most urgent needs of disaster victims.

When possible, such purchases are made near the disaster site to stimulate the local economy and ensure quicker delivery.  All financial donations will be dedicated entirely to Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Relief efforts.

For more information, visit

The donated items needed include: baby food, batteries, box fans, canned goods, cots, cleaning supplies, diapers, feminine hygiene products, flashlights, flood pumps, hand sanitizer, first aid items, leather work gloves, new underwear and socks, new bed pillows and blankets, toiletries, utility knives and high-capacity generators to restore power for hospitals, water service and flood pumps." -

Bill Duhart | For

In city where 1/3 have Puerto Rican heritage, fundraising efforts are 'very personal'

"CAMDEN -- A statewide-effort to raise money for hurricane relief for Puerto Rico was announced Thursday in front of Camden City Hall.

More than a third of the city's 74,400 residents claim Puerto Rican heritage"


"Rodriguez said state Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez, D, Camden, launched the effort by reaching out to the Puerto Rican Congress of New Jersey. Together, they created the Boricuas from New Jersey para Puerto Rico Fund with the South Jersey Credit Union. Organizers plan a statewide campaign with events ending on October 8. The funds will then be distributed to the United for Puerto Rico Foundation and the Salvation Army." -

US sees Puerto Rico as reservation with nothing to reserve

By Andres Cordova, opinion contributor


"One year after the Supreme Court’s decision in Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Sanchez Valle, the enactment of The Puerto Rico Oversight Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), the creation of a Oversight and Management Board and the initiation of bankruptcy-like proceedings under its Title III provisions in the Federal District Court in San Juan put to bed the argument that claimed any kind of uniqueness to the political relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States.

By now, it is clear that Puerto Rico is a territory under the plenary powers of Congress as provided by Article IV, Section III of the Constitution, without limitation or reservation." -

Representative Vito Marcantonio (second from left) standing with a crowd of late registrants outside the register booth at 57 E. 111th Street in Manhattan. (Tom Cunningham/New York Daily News )

The Barrio Congressman: Vito Marcantonio and the Puerto Rican migration

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Bring Medicare Tourism to Puerto Rico

The practice would be good for both the island's economy and the U.S. federal budget.


By Andrew G. Biggs


"The federal budget faces a problem: the rising cost of Medicare benefits. At $10,000 per beneficiary per year, Medicare is one of the largest costs facing the U.S. taxpayer. And it's growing as baby boomers retire and health costs increase. At the same time, the U.S. island of Puerto Rico faces a problem. Its government is effectively bankrupt, and the economy is contracting. Tourism receipts are below potential levels. Perhaps worst, over one-third of the island's doctors have emigrated to the mainland in the past decade, increasingly leaving Puerto Ricans without care.

But there is a policy that could help both the federal budget and the Puerto Rican economy. Not medical tourism, but Medicare tourism."

Luis Flores, a gynecology surgeon and the director of robotics at Bella Vista Hospital in Puerto Rico. Mariela Patron / Mariela Patron

Puerto Rico’s Exodus of Doctors Adds Health Care Strain to Dire Financial Crisis

by Mariela Patron


"SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico's struggling financial crisis has set off an exodus of medical personnel, leaving physicians with unmanageable patient loads and triggering a cascade of problems for patients and hospitals. The government, some hospitals and non-profits are offering incentives to try to keep or attract doctors to Puerto Rico as the situation worsens.

In the eight years between 2005 and 2013, 1,200 physicians and surgeons left Puerto Rico to live on the U.S. mainland, according to the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute. That amounts to 12 percent of the more than 10,000 medics and surgeons who worked on the island during that time. The exodus is still continuing now, with doctors often leaving better salaries, working conditions and resources." -

The offices of Parallel18, a start-up accelerator in San Juan, P.R. The venture is part of a wave of entrepreneurialism among young people, some of whom have left good jobs on the mainland to cast their lot back home. Credit Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for

As Others Pack, Some Millennials Commit to Puerto Rico



"SAN JUAN, P.R. — Two young graduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology did the unthinkable last summer: They quit enviable jobs in New York and moved back to beleaguered Puerto Rico, bringing their plan for a start-up with them.

“People were like: ‘Are you crazy? Why would you ever do that? Go back way later; you’re basically going into a hellhole right now,’” said one of the graduates, Eric Crespo, 25, who helped create Lunchera, a fast-growing online food delivery and logistics company in Puerto Rico.

As the tide of Puerto Ricans leaving the island continues unabated, Mr. Crespo and his partner and college friend, Bryan Collazo, are part of a small but critical wave of educated millennials who are doing the opposite; they are choosing to return home or stay put on the island.

They are opening restaurants and bars, fueling start-ups and small businesses or jump-starting moribund sectors, like agriculture. They are motivated both by an urge to help lift Puerto Rico out of its quagmire, but also by a profound attachment to the island — its beaches and countryside, its friendliness, its intimacy and the tug of family." -

Jesus Emmanuel -

In Puerto Rico, Love Lingers for a Deserted School

By David Gonzalez


"Thick tropical vegetation chokes the atrium and garden at the Lola Rodríguez de Tió High School in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Inside, the place is bereft of souls: The walls have holes where scavengers ripped out wiring and pipes, shafts of sunlight slice into the darkness inside classrooms where books, keyboards and pictures are strewn about haphazardly. This decay has been slowly erasing the physical space since the school closed in 2014, another casualty of Puerto Rico’s economic collapse.


This heartbreaking scene is enough to take a cue from Steely Dan and never go back to your old school.

But for Jesus Emmanuel Rodriguez Pichardo, who graduated here before moving to New York, it triggered intense emotions that kept him coming back to the deserted campus. During an extended stay earlier this year, he made the empty rooms and overgrown yards into a backdrop for large-format portraits of the place and the people who worked and studied there. The images speak to the immediate, emotional bond they had for it. But the shuttered school is a symbol in the larger drama that has played out in recent years as people educated here — and other schools on the island — have fled to New York or Florida.


“Why are these schools abandoned?” said Mr. Rodriguez Pichardo, 35, who goes by Jesus Emmanuel professionally. “They protect us from hurricanes if you have to be evacuated from your home. They are polling places. They are big and they are abandoned. Why not convert them into something with the community? It’s a lack of respect when you leave it closed and abandoned.” -

John McCain moves to repeal the Jones Act



"Senator John McCain introduced a bill that would repeal the Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The Jones Act requires that all shipments between US ports be made on US controlled, made, and manned ships. McCain believes that the law hinders free trade and increases costs for US consumers.

Originally created as a protectionist policy following World War I, McCain calls the policy “an archaic and burdensome law that hinders free trade, stifles the economy, and ultimately harms consumers.” This is not the first time he has attempted to repeal the Jones Act as well. In 2010, he introduced legislation similar to the current one that was not passed. In 2015 and 2016, he attempted to add amendments to the ends of other bills that would loosen the requirements for some ships, attempting to wave the build requirements for oil and gas tankers. None of his previous attempts at a full or partial repeal have been successful." -

Staff group photo of the Puerto Rican talent behind Parallel18. Ccourtesy of Parallel18

In Puerto Rico, Program Attracts Young Entrepreneurs, Sees Results

by Patricia Guadalupe


"A program that has attracted young entrepreneurs to Puerto Rico is seeing solid growth and is generating solid revenues and jobs.

Parallel 18, an accelerator program founded in 2015, offers $40,000 in funding, along with mentoring, consulting, and introduction to investors, to small companies who are looking to scale up and have not been in operation for more than three years. In exchange, the entrepreneurs live and work in Puerto Rico, and collaborate with local universities and mentor students. Parallel 18 takes its name from where the island is located on a map.

So far, the companies participating in the program have generated $14 million in sales, more than half of that on the island, and new jobs.

The island continues to grapple with a crushing debt of $70 billion and a decade of economic stagnation, but Parallel 18 executive director Sebastián Vidal says that entrepreneurship can be pivotal to Puerto Rico’s growth." -

Puerto Rico filed a bill for statehood:

Highlighted News

Pro-statehood supporters await the arrival of Puerto Rico’s new governor at the seaside Capitol in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, Jan. 2, 2017. Ricardo Rossello was sworn in Monday as the U.S. territory prepares for what many believe will be new austerity

Puerto Rico files bill in quest to obtain statehood by 2025


"SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s new representative to the U.S. Congress filed a bill Wednesday that would turn the island into the 51st U.S. state by 2025.


The bill is the first step in a renewed quest for statehood that is to include a referendum letting Puerto Rico voters choose between independence and statehood, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez told The Associated Press.


She filed the bill less than a day after she was sworn in as Puerto Rico’s first female congressional representative, saying she aims to secure equal treatment for the more than 3 million U.S. citizens living in the U.S. territory.


“We are treated as second-class American citizens,” said Gonzalez, a Republican who once served as speaker of the island’s House of Representatives.


The bill also aims to relieve a decade-long economic crisis that has sparked an exodus of more than 200,000 Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland in recent years. If Congress ultimately accepted Puerto Rico as a state, the island would receive roughly $10 billion in additional federal funds a year, Gonzalez said." - The Washington Post

Highlighted News

Puerto Ricans fleeing island's troubles find an unlikely haven: Camden
by , Staff Writer

Ramon Colón felt trapped in Puerto Rico.

He was making $7.55 an hour working in hospital maintenance. His wife had lost her job when her employer went out of business. Colón was forced to switch his teenage children to a public school because he could no longer afford private school tuition on the island.

"I tried to stay in Puerto Rico and contribute with my grain of sand to help the island, but like many others I was forced to abandon ship," said Colón.


So he moved in February - to Camden.

The city may be beset with problems, but that's not how Colón, 39, sees it: "Over there I was surviving, here I am living."

Press Release News & More:

View the letter form Democrat candidate for President Bernard Sanders to Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew.


Pierluisi Seeks Federal Assistance for Puerto Rico Due to Drought
Urges Defense Department to explore options to deliver water to Puerto Rico; urges Governor to seek FEMA assistance.

Aug 12, 2015
Press Release
San Juan, Puerto Rico-Resident  Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi wrote a letter:

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