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Puerto Ricans carried the Emotional “Aftershock”

Worried Island Residents in Central Florida

A mix of uncertainty and impotence looms over the Puerto Rican diaspora as images of collapsed buildings and residences surfaced in the news and over social media. “It hurts a lot. Seeing parts of the island where I was born, grew up and lived for a long time destroyed. Thank God, my family is OK, ”said Caraballo.

“We have been able to communicate and that is important for us, compared to what happened after Hurricane Maria when we had no communication,” said Caraballo.

The governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vásquez, declared a state of emergency, activated the National Guard. By Tuesday afternoon, some 300,000 homes had been reported without water service and several hundred people were seeking shelters in the affected municipalities, according to Associated Press.

Melao Bakery’s owner Janira Torres was worried about her parent’s wellbeing in the coastal town of Vega Baja. “I call them every hour. My parents are older, they have their doctors here [in Florida]. And my brother lives in Puerto Rico, but he has four supermarkets that he has to attend, ” said Torres, who said she booked tickets to fly her parents to Orlando.

Worried Islanders

Worried Islanders.  (Click the image for more)

November 26th 2019

The Curious case of Aurelius Capital vs Puerto Rico


The U.S. solicitor general, Noel J. Francisco, who wrote the federal government’s brief in the proceedings, has claimed that a victory for Aurelius would “undo years of progress toward Puerto Rico’s economic recovery, causing devastating practical consequences for the people of the island”; inflict “grave harm to innocent third parties”; and disrupt “billions of dollars” of financial transactions. Moreover, Francisco claims that the precedent set by a ruling in the firm’s favor could invalidate the election of the mayor of Washington and strip the governors of Guam and the Virgin Islands of their legitimacy. Aurelius holds that these are distractions from the core constitutional issue at hand. “The court should not be dissuaded by the opposing parties’ unfounded claims of ensuing ‘chaos,’ ” the firm said in a reply brief. “These claims boil down to an extraordinary assertion that the constitutional violation here is simply too blatant and too big to remedy.”

US Houser of Representative seek to expand Puerto Rican exports

US Representative wants to increase exports form Puerto Rico

The bill was approved on October 31,  and designed to specifically address the export services of companies based in Puerto Rico and other United States territories.

This piece of legislation would assist the Puerto Rican economy by creating a new office that would help facilitate education and action among these business in growing exports. 

The bill is currently listed as HR 3242,  and named the “Office of Territorial Exporting Act.” The name reflects the legislation’s goal of planning to develop this new export office to offset chaotic changes to the economic landscape of Puerto Rico in recent years.

Medicaid Funding in US territories takes a dive

Medicare funding for Puerto Rico

"The capped financing amounts were low and did not meet all of the needs of the population in the territories," says Rudowitz. 

If the additional federal contributions are gone for good, she says, "given the share that they represent of the financing for Medicaid in these territories, it would mean major changes and reductions in care.

The territories have known that this funding cliff was coming for years — the end to a major portion of the money was written into the ACA. Island health officials and care providers hoped Congress would have legislated a more permanent solution by now, but it hasn't.

FEMA's Hurricane aid to Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands has stalled


Jeffrey Byard, the associate administrator for the Office of Response and Recovery at FEMA, said the agency had never seen recovery efforts like those from the natural disasters of 2017, which included Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma, as well as wildfires in California. 

“Comparing disasters misleads the American people,” he said. “Each event has a unique set of circumstances, and numbers alone cannot and do not provide a complete picture of what is needed to help communities recover.”

FEMA, through its public assistance program, helps communities recover from major disasters by assisting with debris removal, lifesaving emergency protective measures and public infrastructure reconstruction. Debris removal and protective measures are classified as emergency work. The “permanent work” of public infrastructure repair is what guarantees long-term recovery.

Giving Tuesday - Puerto Rico

Giving Tuesday in Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, about $116,200 were raised in last year’s event, helping 60 organizations.

Around 80 organizations are participating in this year’s Giving Tuesday Puerto Rico. Among the planned initiatives include fundraising drives to help children from low-income families in Ponce attend swimming classes; help an animal shelter in Ponce that rescues abandoned dogs and cats; help a shelter for abused boys in Aguas Buenas complete their rebuilding plans after Hurricane Maria; and help children living with cancer and their families across the island.

Several local organizations are already doing their part this holiday season. The Rotary Club of San Juan will hold a Thanksgiving luncheon for children who are members of the Boys and Girls Club. Planet Fitness is holding a toy drive at all of its gyms around the island, collecting “unwrapped toys,” such as dolls, action figures, games and puzzles.

Entertainment: Ozuna, the golden child

Ozuna - the golden child

I talked to Ozuna over months at a time—meeting him for the first time in late March, a month away from the 26th Billboard Latin Music Awards. He led the awards with a record-breaking 23 nominations in 15 categories including Artist of the Year, Latin Rhythms Album of the Year and Latin Album of the Year with both Odisea and Aura listed under the latter two categories. Half an hour before his photoshoot, I walk into the makeup room where he sits, skimming through a magazine. He looks up and smiles as I enter. Though friendly, he’s a bit reserved. As we start, I tell him el español mio es un poco machucao jokingly pointing out my sometimes-broken Spanish. My comment breaks the ice, causing him to chuckle as he casually moves into a laid-back posture.

November 7th 2019

Puerto Rican senator and 7 more arrested for corruption


“If the New Progressive Party thinks Abel Nazario is an obstacle, let them expel me. But I am not leaving. This is my home,” he said from his office in the seaside capitol.

The arrests come as Puerto Rico recovers from recent political turmoil that saw the resignation of the island’s previous governor following massive protests spurred in part by anger over corruption.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Puerto Rico’s Comptroller’s Office uncovered the alleged scheme during a routine audit of Yauco’s financial records.

Federal authorities previously arrested Nazario in September 2018 and accused him of defrauding his employees while serving as mayor of the southwest town of Yauco. 

They said his employees were required to work two voluntary hours a day, which the Department of Labor identified as a violation.

Celebration in The diocese of Caguas...


The national launch of the Sixth American Missionary Congress (CAM 6) Puerto Rico 2023, took place on October 19, at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. 

The Executive Committee, formed by the Presidential Committee and the Coordinators of the Commissions and by the delegate of the Diocese of Ponce, seat of CAM 6, held the first meeting on October 28, for the organization of the continental event. 

Each Commission has a vital role, at a strategic and service level, in the journey of the Church of Puerto Rico and the American continent towards 2023.

What does the somos conference in Puerto Rico ACCOMPLISH?


Davila declined to say why past reports were not released, referring City & State to two previous chairs, Assemblyman Félix Ortiz of Brooklyn and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo of the Bronx. Ortiz said that he did not have possession of any reports from past years and referred City & State back to Davila. “I can't speak for anybody in the past,” Davila responded. “I can only speak for myself.” 

Crespo, who was named as chairman in 2015, said that there “was always a plan” to release reports during his tenure but “other priorities” took precedence. The unreleased reports makes it hard to judge the policy ideas that were purportedly developed at past conferences, but Crespo claims there were many. 

“I’m sure my task force colleagues agree that our conference efforts have helped move many agenda items forward and present pivotal information to our participants and community,” said Crespo, who declined to discuss the issue of the reports further before publication time. 

San Juan Mayors race becomes test of Puerto Rico's New Politics


The ruling New Progressive Party, known as the PNP, and the opposition Popular Democratic Party, or PPD, will hold primaries to winnow the field. Among those running on the PNP side are Senator Miguel Romero and academic Manuel “Palomo” Colon Perez. 

Senator Rossana Lopez Leon and Armando Valdes, former director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Management and Budget, seek the PPD nomination.

The winner will succeed Carmen Yulin Cruz, a PPD member nationally known for clashing with President Donald Trump, whom she accused of discriminating against the predominantly Latino island as it recovered from the storm. Cruz is running for the PPD nomination for governor, and the mayorship has often been a springboard to higher office in the bankrupt U.S. commonwealth, which faces almost $18 billion of general-obligation bonds and government-guaranteed debt and a $50 billion pension liability.

Philly Puerto Ricans join latest swell of organized activity for influence here and on the island


The Philly residents met at Taller Puertorriqueño, one of the more than 50 assemblies that have sprouted up across the country — three in New York City, one in Florida, dozens in different municipalities in Puerto Rico — in the aftermath of the political turmoil that caused Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign after a series of corruption scandals.

Puchi DeJesús, a member of Philly Boricua, said the group’s end goal is to educate the communities about their weighty voting power and how to exercise it. 

Not only do Philly Puerto Ricans, who make up 62% of the Latino population here, have the numbers to make a difference in local elections; they have the additional capacity to elect U.S. politicians who then can influence policy regarding Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican evacuees are still in new York - and still struggling


Former New York City Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito – who is currently running for Congress in the 15th District in the Bronx – was still in office when evacuees started to filter into the city, and told City & State that she advocated strongly for the city to establish an intake system for the displaced Puerto Ricans. 

She also played a hand in establishing the Julia de Burgos center as a “centralized place where all the different city agencies were represented,” and could connect evacuees to an array of services. “Unfortunately, (the centralized location of disaster relocation services) wasn’t kept up,” Mark-Viverito said. “Once I left office, where my voice was a very strong one, a lot of things that had been established started to fall through the cracks.”

Many of the Puerto Ricans who made their way to the mainland had already been struggling financially when they left the island, Venator-Santiago said. “The people who suffered the most damage (during Maria) were the people who lived in the most precarious housing or neighborhood situations,” Venator-Santiago explained. “Their socioeconomic status made them vulnerable to begin with. And prior to the storm, we (academics familiar with Puerto Rico’s socioeconomic landscape) knew that they were going to have hardships – and that was the case.”

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Jetblue workers is slammed for homeless person from CARIBBEAN HALLOWEEN COSTUME


One user wrote: 'Not sure if they know but thousands of people lost everything due to Hurricane Maria and for this JetBlue employee to think it’s OK to joke about the epidemic of homelessness in Puerto Rico and the U.S. is sickening and completely unacceptable', wrote another user. 'That’s NO JOKE.'

JetBlue is the largest airline carrier in Puerto Rico, with 50 daily flights from San Juan. 

The city of Fort Lauderdale, where the airport is, is made up of 20 percent Latino population, according to census data.

JetBlue apologized for the clearly insensitive costume choice. In an email to NBC  the carrier claimed: 'In the spirit of Halloween, our crewmembers are welcome to celebrate in costume, but one crewmember chose a costume that was clearly insensitive and not in line with our costume policy,' said Derek Dombrowski, manager of corporate communications at JetBlue.

Flamboyant puerto rican ASTROLOGER Walter Mercado dies at 87


Alex Fumero, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who has spent two years working on a documentary about Mercado, said the astrologer was an unlikely icon in the Latino community.

“This is a culture that’s been dominated by machismo and homophobia for a very long time. For someone who so brazenly played with gender and sexuality and always remained something of a mystery ... he was really brave,” Fumero said in a phone interview.

He recalled being struck by Mercado’s large collection of books in his home.

“He can talk to you about Anna Karenina. He’s a real intellectual in that sense,” Fumero said, adding that Mercado also was extremely kind. “He was one of the most loving people. Being around him, you felt good.”

Puerto rico prepares to bolster power grid


By year’s end, the government expects to choose the company that will take over the transmission and distribution of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, which is some $9 billion in debt. 

The new owner will be responsible for implementing the plan, which also calls for the creation of eight micro grids capable of operating independently if a storm knocked one out.

That project, along with certain others, will take up to a decade to complete.

US bill would provide puerto rico a pathway to statehood


Under the legislation, which has some bipartisan support, a federally authorized referendum would appear on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot in Puerto Rico. Approval by a majority of the island’s voters would lead to a presidential proclamation within 30 months making Puerto Rico the 51st state. 

President Donald Trump has called Puerto Rico “one of the most corrupt places on earth,” making the bill’s future murky. The island’s non-voting congressional representative, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, said the measure has 45 sponsors.

HURRICANES kill some birds but not as many as people


Scientists concentrate on species and subspecies. In terms of the Bahamas, only speculation is possible at the moment. One species on the extreme edge, the Bahama nuthatch, only one or two of which were known to be living before Dorian, may well have been pushed to extinction. Others that are in trouble, like the Bahama parrot, may have suffered little impact.

Diana Bell of the University of East Anglia said that researchers from her lab found a Bahama nuthatch last year. That’s one single bird. She said another team reported finding two.

“We want another puerto rico”


“It’s a sense of abandonment,” said Leticia Del Valle Durán, 37, an artisan and single mother of two on the outskirts of San Juan whose frayed tarp started to give way this summer. Her bathrooms are so damaged that she now showers in the garage, under a meager trickle of water from a plastic jug with a spigot. 

The second floor, where her sister used to live, is uninhabitable, musty with mold. “We are always sick,” Ms. Del Valle said.

She brought her children to the recent people’s assembly in San Juan’s Hato Rey neighborhood and joined a committee focused on housing.