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Boricua Blackout: Massive Puerto Rico Power Outage A New Jolt For Island Crisis

Carlos Giusti
A police officer directs traffic in San Juan during Puerto Rico's island-wide blackout this week.

Puerto Rico is suffering one of the worst economic crises in the western hemisphere. Adding to the U.S. territory’s problems right now is a massive, island-wide blackout - which gives Puerto Ricans one more reason to come to Florida.

A fire broke out Wednesday at a power plant on Puerto Rico’s southern coast. Electricity was shut off across the Caribbean island as a precaution. By this afternoon, power was restored to only 300,000 of the 1.5 million customers affected. (The total number of people impacted may be more than 3 million.)

It’s another jolt to Puerto Rico, which has been crippled by a $70 billion debt emergency.

"But I was not surprised," said Hector Luis Pabellon, a sales manager in Caguas, whose family was still without power.

Pabellon said the blackout reflects how the crisis has hurt the debt-ridden Electric Power Authority, the island’s major utility.

"This is something that we were expecting to happen soon. This is something that is caused by the lack of maintenance and the lack of money to invest in the infrastructure."

The economic collapse has caused hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to leave the island in recent years. More than a million now live in Florida – a third of them in South Florida.

"For people that are considering moving from the island," said Pabellon, "things like this definitely push them further in order to go."

Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro  Garcia Padilla says he hopes to have power fully restored by the weekend.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
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