Like Venezuela, Puerto Rico is a failed state — mired in debt, with a decaying infrastructure.
In June 2015, Puerto Rico went bankrupt, from $70 billion in debt. (See “America’s Greece: Puerto Rico is bankrupt”)
Two days ago, the entire island was plunged into darkness when a fire at a power plant led to a massive power outage.
The AP reports (via Wall St. Journal), Sept. 22, 2016, that repair crews worked through the night trying to restore electricity to the island by morning. But some schools canceled classes for the day as a precaution, while Puerto Rico’s largest public hospital canceled elective surgeries and nonurgent appointments, and government officials and private groups put off dozens of scheduled events.
Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla activated the National Guard and declared a state of emergency, saying, “This is a very serious event. The system is not designed to withstand a failure of this magnitude.”
Wednesday’s outage caused 15 fires across Puerto Rico as a result of malfunctioning generators, including at the upscale Vanderbilt hotel in the popular tourist area of Condado and at the mayor’s office in the northern coastal town of Catano. All those fires were extinguished, and no one was injured, officials said. The blackout knocked out traffic lights, snarling the island’s roads. Businesses, universities and government offices closed early, putting even more cars on chaotic roads. Some people opted to not go home, and hotels in the capital of San Juan quickly filled up. As the sun set, people crowded into restaurants running on generators; others chatted with neighbors while standing or sitting at opened doors and windows trying to beat the hot night.
The outage was the latest hit for an island mired in a decadelong economic crisis and whose government has warned it is running out of money as it seeks to restructure nearly $70 billion in public debt.
The Electric Power Authority (EPA) said investigators were trying to determine what caused the fire that broke out Wednesday afternoon at a power plant in southern Puerto Rico that serves a majority of customers on the island. The fire began at a switch and caused two transmission lines of 230,000 volts each to fail. EPA executive director Javier Quintana said he expected most power to be restored by morning and that airports, hospitals, police stations and water-pumping stations would get priority. But many Puerto Ricans expressed doubts that power would be restored quickly, saying the economic slump has affected basic government services. Hundreds of people took to social media to criticize the EPA, noting they already pay bills on average twice that of the U.S. mainland.
It is unclear how much damage the fire caused or where the power company would obtain the money to repair or buy new equipment as the EPA already is struggling with a $9 billion debt it hopes to restructure as it faces numerous corruption allegations. Company officials have said they are seeking more revenue to update what they say is outdated equipment.
Gov. Padilla, however, insisted that the switch where the fire began had received proper maintenance and that no amount of money or maintenance would have prevented the fire.
USA Today reports that late last night, lights slowly began to flicker on across Puerto Rico as electricity was restored to more than 390,000 of the 1.5 million homes and businesses served by the Electric Power Authority.
Gov. Padilla said he expects more than half of EPA’s customers to have power by this morning and that 90% of customers will likely have power by Saturday. However, he cautioned: “Problems may arise. I don’t want to create false expectations.”
Puerto Rico is not only a sober reminder to us of the result of government mismanagement and spiraling debt, the island’s bankruptcy also directly impacts the U.S. as more and more Puerto Ricans resettle in the U.S. mainland, not as foreign immigrants, but as U.S. citizens. They may even decide who will be America’s next president.
Note: Puerto Rico is an incorporated U.S. territory in the Caribbean with a total population of around 3.5 million people, 12.5% of whom are black or sub-Saharan African. As such, people born in Puerto Rico are natural-born citizens of the United States. The territory operates under a local constitution, and Puerto Ricans elect a governor. However, Puerto Rico lacks voting members in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, both of whom have plenary jurisdiction over it under the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act of 1950. A 2012 referendum showed a majority (54% of Puerto Rico’s electorate) disagreed with “the present form of territorial status” and preferred full statehood in the USA. (Source)
As reported by CNN on August 9, 2016, more than a million Puerto Ricans now live in Florida, a number that rivals the state’s Cuban population who have long dominated Latino political power in Florida. A majority of recent new residents are resettling in the counties along the “I-4 corridor” in Central Florida, which is known as a crucial swing region for elections.
Esteban Garces, the Florida state director of Mi Familia Vota, a “progressive” advocacy group that aims to register more than 30,000 Latino voters in the state before Election Day, said: “Central Florida is a key region of this swing state. And there’s a swing vote in this swing region in this swing state, and that’s the Latino vote. Specifically, it’s the Puerto Ricans. They’re going to decide really who the next president is.”
Meanwhile, across the Caribbean Sea in Venezuela, people literally are on the brink of starvation.
Venezuelans are killing their pets and zoo animals for food. A new study found that over 15% of Venezuela say they depend on eating garbage — food waste discarded by commercial establishments — to survive, while half of the population say they have had to take time from work to search for food. (Breitbart)
But socialist actor Sean Penn, with an estimated net worth of $150 million, is still no where to be seen in Venezuela helping its starving people, although he was BFF with the country’s socialist president, Hugo Chavez, who died in March 2013 with a family fortune of around $2 billion — similar to the personal fortunes of the socialist Castro brothers (Fidel and Raúl) in socialist Cuba.
Instead, Penn was last spotted on August 23, having dinner at the elegant Mediterranean restaurant Il Piccolino in West Hollywood, where the menu includes steaks, chicken, veal, lamb, artisan duck sausages, seafood pasta, and octopus appetizers.