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Puerto Rico

(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.

vxla / Creative Commons

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:

Sergey Borisov/iStock / Thinkstock

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.

Peter Dutton/Creative Commons

   

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.

Jorge Gonzalez / Creative Commons

 

As Europeans work towards a resolution of the Greek debt crisis, another economic crisis in Puerto Rico is contributing to a huge out-migration of residents from the island. 

A report obtained by NPR paints a bleak portrait of Puerto Rico's economic future, saying its deficit is much larger than previously thought.

"Puerto Rico faces hard times," says the report which was commissioned by the Government Development Bank and written by three former and current International Monetary Fund economists. It is to be released on Monday.

Although it's a tropical island, perhaps surprisingly, Puerto Rico produces very little of its own food. After decades of industrialization, the U.S. territory imports more than 80 percent of what's consumed on the island. There are signs, though, the trend is changing.

vxla / Creative Commons

The United States has a long and complex relationship with Puerto Rico that changes dramatically depending on who is telling the tale. 

Javier Villa has worked at his family's used car dealership in San Juan, Puerto Rico, ever since he finished high school.

Villa, 35, always assumed the insurance plan he had through work would take care of him and his family. But a couple years ago, he ran into a problem.

He was taking a shower one morning when he noticed a lump on the side of his throat. "Very big, like maybe a tennis ball," he says.

A showcase of the latest work by Hispanic, Portuguese, and Latino filmmakers opens Tuesday in New Haven: the New England Festival of Ibero American Cinema. There will be screenings and events featuring many of the visiting filmmakers. Everything is free and open to the public.

The National Puerto Rican Day Parade will be marching down New York City's Fifth Avenue under new leadership this year.

boricuahumanrights.org and Official Photo, Office of Luis Gutierrez

When Congressman Luis Gutierrez was a teenager in Puerto Rico, he became involved in the independence movement for his home country. It's a battle he's taken all the way to his job in Washington, where he represents Illinois' 4th District in Chicago.

The history of the U.S military includes contributions from segregated units. One unit many Americans know little about are the Borinqueneers. They were an all-Hispanic unit in the U.S Army that served in World Wars I and II. But it was the Korean War when the unit rose to prominence. As Lucy Nalpathanchil of WNPR reports, there’s a growing movement to honor these veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal.

Catie Talarski / WNPR

There'a a push among federal legislators to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the last segregated Hispanic unit in the U.S. military. 

Photo by Catie Talarski

There'a a push among federal legislators to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the last segregated Hispanic unit in the U.S. military. 

Ethorson (Flickr Creative Commons)

In the November elections, most results were pretty clear cut. But one that seems to have raised more questions than answers was a plebiscite on Puerto Rico’s political status.

Chion Wolf

Connecticut, especially Hartford, has a special relationship with the island of Puerto Rico. These ties brought Sila Calderón to the state this week. She was the keynote speaker last night at a meeting of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving’s Latino Endowment Fund.