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Posts Tagged ‘Caribbean’


Marshall McLuhan said it best in 1967: “The medium is the massage” and it appears that current Republican and pro-statehood Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño and his supporters, who are now new GOP voters from the United States, have become a classic example of what McLuhan predicted so correctly 44 years ago.

Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuño

Case in point: a syndicated column by Deroy Murdock, which ran in November, 2011. Titled “Puerto Rico shows Washington the way,” Murdock overlooks some major facts about the Fortuño administration to paint a rosy and glowing picture of a Puerto Rican Miracle that is transforming the island. Problem is: Murdock misinforms and misses the point. Now we have written many posts that try to present the full picture of the Fortuño government, and have tried to present our case with actual official facts from the United States government. Maybe Murdock needs to do a little more research and less public relations drivel.

We are not saying that Fortuño’s intent to make government smaller and cut expenses is a bad idea. In fact, it is a very good one, theoretically. The problem is that is not accurate. Right now, Puerto Rico’s public sector is growing again. Even as Fortuño made headlines and caused social havoc on the island for cutting government jobs, the fact remains (and you can check it here) that 25% of the entire workforce in Puerto Rico works for the public sector. In addition, under Fortuño, unemployment right now is at 16.1% (October 2011), and when he entered in office in January 2008, it was at 10.9%. That is what the US Department of Labor has recorded, and one Puerto Rican gubernatorial candidate even claims that unemployment is actually at 37%.

In addition, if you truly begin to look at real statistics from the 2010 US Census for Puerto Rico, it paints a very different picture than the one Fortuño presents to his American conservative visitors. Granted, Fortuño’s free market on steroids policy is one way to attack the problem, and he is just one of the many political leaders on the island who have not solved this growing social and economic crisis, but the fact remains: three years of growing unemployment, a drop in the island’s population, and an increase in poverty and wealth inequality.

And what does Fortuño promise? We will let Murdock tell us:

CVS, Nordstrom’s, Pet Smart, P.F. Chang’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Victoria’s Secret all are opening in Puerto Rico. “They’re coming in brand new, for the first time, ever,” Fortuno says. Honeywell and Merck are expanding manufacturing facilities. Venezuela’s Banesco is the first new bank to open in Puerto Rico in 13 years.

“We are moving in the right direction,” Fortuno smiles. “We are creating jobs in the private sector, not in the public sector, the way we should be. So, we can keep lowering taxes.

Where does Murdock even begin to question Fortuño’s claim, when the US Department of Labor has statistics that totally refute Murdock’s column?

Then there is this from Murdock, which he writes in the beginning:

Fortuno’s reforms, including merging government agencies, led Standard and Poor’s to upgrade Puerto Rico’s credit rating for the first time in 28 years.

Now that information is true. The credit upgrade occurred on March 7, 2011. But Murdock doesn’t even mention that in August of this year, Moody’s downgrade  Puerto Rico’s credit rating. Here is what Moody’s said:

“The downgrade to Baa1 and the assignment of a negative outlook reflect the commonwealth’s continued financial deterioration of the severely underfunded retirement systems, continued weak economic trend, and weak finances, with a historical trend of funding budget gaps with borrowing,” Moody’s said. “Needed retirement system reforms, in our view, may exacerbate strains on the commonwealth’s economy and budgetary finances in the coming years.”

In addition, Murdock spends a great deal of time praising the Puerto Rican housing boom. And data does confirm this. But at the same time, Murdock spends no time actually looking at other data that would present a more fuller picture of the island’s situation. Here is what the Census for 2010 says:

  • Almost half the population lives below the poverty line: 45 percent of 3.7 million.Less than 40,000 families have incomes more than $ 100 000. 37 percent of the population depends on the federal Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP).
  • In the last decade has been over half a million Puerto Ricans have left the island, which results is a fleeing of knowledge from the island
  • 40 percent of the population receives 8 percent of the country’s income, while the remaining 92 percent goes into the hands of 60% of the population, which implies an unequal distribution of wealth.

More statistics about the island can be found on this site as well as the CIA World Fact Sheet.

So while Murdock presents some facts about Fortuño’s administration, he doesn’t present all of them. So as a service to Murdock, we posted them.

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Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois) has clearly become the voice of all things Puerto Rican.

Congressman Luis Gutiérrez

This week, on the floor on Congress, Gutiérrez reveals facts about how the Archbishop of Puerto Rico was the latest scapegoat of the the current administration of pro-statehood and Republican Governor Luis Fortuño. Gutiérrez speaks about how the current Puerto Rican government was attempting to silence the Archbishop about his views about Puerto Rico’s political status.

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This information originally appeared in Spanish in Puerto Rico’s Vocero newspaper. While politicians on the island from all political parties play the partisan game, according to the US Census, Puerto Rico is facing worsening economic and social conditions.

Puerto Rico has become a poor country, that is more dependent, with more disabled people. The working age population is now the minority, their participation in the labor market is minimal and they are less educated.  A quarter of the population lives in poverty, according to 2010 Census.

Here are some facts:

  • There are 311,000 people who live alone. That equates to one in five of all 1.319 million Puerto Rican households 1,319 million. The average number of people in other households is 3.2.
  • Half of the families in Puerto Rico are married couples, and 43 percent of them have children. A third of households are headed by women. There are now 700,000 thousand children. There are more people over 65 in Puerto Rico than children, creating a dependent population.
  • Each year there are 17,000 marriages, while there are 15,000 divorces. Almost half of couples who have a home are not married.
  • 52 percent of the population are women.
  • 15 percent of the population is over 65 years old.
  • In 42 percent of the families, there is a person over 65 years old, which means that this elderly population does not have sufficient income to live alone.
  • In the area of ​​education, a quarter of the island’s total population, one million people, is comprised of students, including adults, adolescents, and children. However, the majority of the adult population has attained a high school education. The level of education is 22 percent, which suggests that the poverty rate has increased.
  • 80 percent of teachers in the public school system are not in English, while 63 percent of university students do not graduate. 60 percent of public school students do not master basic skills in Spanish.
  • Only one in five Puerto Ricans have mastered English skills, thus reducing the bilingual labor market.
  • There are 2,444,000 people who 25 years or older. 20 percent of  this population has ninth grade education or less, 11 percent complete Grade 11, while only 25 percent have completed fours years of high school.
  • 63 percent of the population have a college education or lower education.
  • On the island there are 400,000 people with college degrees, or 16 percent of the population. Only 6 percent if the population or 154,000 people have a graduated degrees The total number of people with undergraduate or graduate degrees is only 22 percent of the population.
  • There are 113,000 veterans Puerto Ricans living on the Island
  • Meanwhile, there are 726 000 people with disabilities, or 20 percent of the population. 52 percent of people over 65 has some form of disability, and children represent 7 percent of the disabled population. There are 67,000 students in special education. Disabled adults and children account for 1.5 million people, or one third of the population.
  • There are 200,000 Puerto Ricans born in the U.S., or 5 percent of the population. Another 304,000 were born outside the United States, while the rest of the population was born on the island.
  • In terms of economics, the study revealed that a 250,000 families (with 3.2 members per household) live on less than $ 10,000 annually, or $ 800 per month, which equals $ 240 a month per household member.
  • Women are discriminated against by receiving less pay and have worse working conditions, while the average monthly income of retirees is $ 668 from Social Security.
  • The labor force is 1.2 million, a quarter of the population. The participation rate is one million, less than 39 percent of the total population. Only 39% of older people who work.
  • Almost half the population lives below the poverty line: 45 percent of 3.7 million.Less than 40,000 families have incomes more than $ 100 000. 37 percent of the population depends on the federal Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP).
  • In the last decade has been over half a million Puerto Ricans have left the island, which results is a fleeing of knowledge from the island.
  • 40 percent of the population receives 8 percent of the country’s income, while the remaining 92 percent goes into the hands of 60% of the population, which implies an unequal distribution of wealth.
  • On issues related to the population of all Puerto Ricans in the United States, there are now 4.2 million Puerto Ricans living in the United States. This signifies a greater diaspora, when compared to countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan and Palestines.
  • The population of people under 18 years old fell to 17 percent.
  • Puerto Rico has become a nation without a working class, with poor, dependent, disabled and marginalized people.

The island has been in decline, according to data that could be classified as the worst since the first census conducted in 1950. Is it the lost decade?

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In a much-heralded White House Roundtable Discussion today with journalists from Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL, President Obama offered his views about Puerto Rico’s quest to finally resolve its 113-year-old status debate. Here is the video of what he said:

Although President Obama said “the key here is that the status of Puerto Rico should be decided by the residents of Puerto Rico,” he also said that it comes with certain conditions:

  • Puerto Ricans must show an overwhelmingly majority for one option.
  • In the end, the US Congress is the FINAL VOICE of determining Puerto Rico’s political future. A plebiscite vote will only “influence” Congress to act.
  • If the island is split on status options, “it is hard to imagine that Congress would be wanting to impose a single solution on the island.”
The reality is that President Obama, even with his actions to form a new White House Task Force on Puerto Rican Status behind him, has basically reiterated the truth about Puerto Rico: Puerto Ricans on the island do not have the right to self-determination — the final voice and authority on determining Puerto Rico’s status is and always will be Congress.
The colony of Puerto Rico is alive and well, even after the world has seen cosmic changes in new governments being formed in places such as Cairo and Tripoli.
Puerto Ricans, according to President Obama, can vote for their future, but Congress will have the final say. And if the next non-binding plebiscite is not a slam dunk for one of the four options (independence, statehood, the commonwealth status quo, or free associate state), then nothing will happen and Puerto Rico will still be stuck, as it has been so ever since 1898, the year the United States invaded the island during the Spanish-American War.
This kind of reminds us of that famous line from The Who: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

When will Puerto Rico wake up and realize that leaders from the United States and the island’s own leaders from all three major political parties are just feeding into the current status quo? When will the island and its people say that they won’t get fooled again?

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“It’s raining money and drugs here in Puerto Rico.” For all those who think that the issues of border security, drug crimes and tragic murders are only affecting the US-Mexican border just need to watch this report from CBS NEWS.

As the report says: “Drug smuggling is as much a part of Puerto Rico as palm trees and sand – American sand. For drug traffickers that means once they get to Puerto Rico, no more customs checkpoints on the way to the mainland.”


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Leave it to Representative Luis Gutiérrez to leave it all out on the floor of the US Congress this week, in light of a scathing Department of Justice report on the police abuse charges in Puerto Rico.

Gutiérrez, who has been the lone voice of Congress in exposing the hypocrisy of the pro-statehood Republican administration of Luis Fortuño, share his thoughts with his Congressional colleagues.

Flash Animation

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Last week, the United States Department of Justice released a scathing report accusing the Puerto Rican police —the nation’s second largest police force— of serious abuse and civil rights violations. Now, the island’s federal woes continue, as The Wall Street Journal reported today about serious fraud charges and Social Security disability claims. As the article states:

[SSDI]© United Press International Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll

The inspector general, Patrick O’Carroll, told an audience at an Aug. 30 disability-examiners conference that the investigation was tied to a pharmaceutical plant that recently closed in Puerto Rico, with 300 employees losing their jobs.

Shortly after the layoff, 290 of the 300 former employees applied for Social Security disability benefits and they all used the same doctor, who lived far from the plant, Mr. O’Carroll told the audience. Mr. O’Carroll didn’t identify the doctor, whose identity couldn’t be learned.

Jonathan Lasher, an assistant inspector general at the agency, wouldn’t comment on the case, but said, “The office of the inspector general is continuing to pursue any number of fraud allegations in Puerto Rico related to the Social Security disability program.”

The investigation comes as part of a stepped-up presence in the U.S. commonwealth by the inspector general’s office following a March article in The Wall Street Journal that showed how much easier it is to win Social Security disability benefits on the Caribbean island compared with any of the 50 U.S. states.

In 2010, the Social Security Administration awarded benefits in 63.4% of its initial decisions in Puerto Rico, compared with much lower rates elsewhere. In Arizona, for example, benefits were awarded in initial applications in 35.6% of the cases. Nine of the 10 top U.S. zip codes for workers collecting Social Security disability benefits are in Puerto Rico, according to government data.

A spokesman for the Social Security Administration said in light of “statistical trends” in Puerto Rico it has asked the inspector general’s office to “make sure that these trends do not reflect an increase in fraud.”

The article continues:

Even though SSDI is a federal program funded by payroll taxes, initial decisions about whether someone qualifies are made by state officials because of the way the program is designed. Officials in the Puerto Rican government promised full cooperation with the probe.

“We strongly support the effort to investigate this case and any incident of abuse, and will partner with federal officials to eliminate fraud in not only the disability program, but in other federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid,” Lorenzo Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s secretary of health, said in a written statement. “As with any other federal investigation involving fraud with a federal program, if a physician is found to be performing unlawfully, we will move swiftly at the local level through the state licensing board to take whatever action is needed to halt the abuse.”

Mr. Gonzalez said these incidents “are not unique to Puerto Rico” and show the need for “standardized, clear cut guidelines” in determining how benefits are awarded.

Puerto Rico’s unemployment rate was 15.5% in July, higher than the 9.1% national average.

For those who have lived and worked on the island for decades, Puerto Rico has had an anecdotal history of abusing federal handouts and claims. The recent actions by the federal government confirm that the island’s economic relationship with the United States is being challenged and questioned, in light of the economic problems the federal government is facing.

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