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Puerto Rico

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It's almost year since a financial oversight board was set up to resolve the debt crisis on the island of Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican government owes about $9 billion, and as the anniversary approaches, it looks likely that changes could be made to the way that debt is restructured. 

On Puerto Rico's southwestern corner, the sleepy seaside town of Guanica is where, nearly 120 years ago, the U.S. relationship with the island began during the Spanish-American War. The town's museum director, Francisco Rodriguez, takes visitors to the town's waterfront where the invasion began. In Spanish he says, "This is Guanica Bay, where the American troops commanded by General Nelson Miles landed on July 25, 1898." At the site, a stone marker engraved by the 3rd Battalion of the U.S. Army commemorates the invasion.

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Fifty-eight years; fifty states; one governor's commitment to change. This hour: statehood for Puerto Rico -- is it in the cards? We consider what lies ahead for the island under its new leader, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

(This post was updated at 2:11 p.m. ET.)

Puerto Rico's governor, Alejandro García Padilla, has declared a state of emergency over a power outage that at its peak affected 1.5 million customers.

By morning that number had been cut by a couple hundred thousand, but more than a million customers on the island remained without electricity.

Puerto Rico now has its first Olympic gold medal, courtesy of tennis star Monica Puig, who beat Germany's Angelique Kerber in the women's singles tournament at Rio's Summer Olympics Saturday.

"I"m speechless," a smiling Puig said after her historic win. "I wanted it so bad."

"I never imagined in my wildest dreams that this would happen," Puig added — and she said her experience in Rio de Janeiro has been like a dream. She's looking forward, she said, to waking up tomorrow morning and seeing her gold medal sitting on her bedside table.

The House has approved a bipartisan bill to help Puerto Rico tackle its $70 billion debt crisis, just weeks before a July deadline for the island's next debt payment.

Supporters of the bill say it is not a bailout, NPR's Greg Allen tells our Newscast unit:

"The plan includes no federal money for the U.S. territory," Greg says. "It creates a seven-member financial control board, appointed by the president from a list put together by Congress.

Saying he was making a "tough decision," Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro García Padilla announced the island would not make a more than $400 million debt payment due today.

"I've had to choose and I have made a choice," García said in a message to the commonwealth. "I've decided that your basic needs come before anything else."

NPR's Jim Zarroli filed this report for our Newscast unit:

Catie Talarski / WNPR

Two Connecticut Army veterans are in Washington D.C. on Wednesday as their all Puerto Rican unit, the 65th Infantry Regiment, known as the Borinqueneers, are awarded the Congressional Gold Medal -- the highest honor Congress can award to civilians. 

Puerto Rico's governor has signed a bill that puts the island's debt payments on hold until January 2017. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla says the island's first priority is covering payments for essential services.

Puerto Rico acted this week following reports that a key financial institution, the Government Development Bank, is nearly insolvent. A group of hedge funds went to court to block public agencies from withdrawing funds from the bank. Within hours, the Legislature moved to pass the debt moratorium by approving the measure.

The Zika virus is a health threat not just to Latin America, but also to parts of the U.S. It's already a problem in Puerto Rico where there are nearly 120 cases so far, including five pregnant women. That's a concern, because Zika may be involved in causing birth defects.

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Last week, Puerto Rico defaulted on millions of dollars in debt payments, spurring legal action from bond insurers. This hour, we get the latest on the island's economic crisis, including Governor Alejandro García Padilla’s pleas for Congressional intervention

Puerto Rico has managed to make a payment due today on its bond debt, but officials are warning that the commonwealth's fiscal position remains tenuous.

As a result, the government will have to pay for essential government services by using money budgeted for upcoming debt payments, said Melba Acosta Febo, president of the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico, in a statement. She added:

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U.S. Senator Chris Murphy is making another push for mental health reform in Congress that he hopes will overhaul and strengthen the mental health care system. He joins us from Washington, D.C. to explain the legislation and to discuss some recent news on the U.S. policy on Syria and use of drones. 

We also talk to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal about an Obama administration proposal to help address Puerto Rico's fiscal challenges. 

Debora Timms

Members of Connecticut’s Puerto Rican community met in Hartford on Friday with U.S. Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal to discuss Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.

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This hour we’re checking back in on a few stories we’ve been following.

First, we’ll look at Puerto Rican out-migration caused by the financial crisis. According to Pew, there are now more Puerto Ricans in Florida than Puerto Rico. We’ll talk to the director of Pew’s Hispanic Research Center to hear what this means for the island, and for cities like Hartford.

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