6 Reasons Why Beautiful Puerto Rico Is Basically a Living Hell Right Now
Beautiful sandy beaches ... that's Puerto Rico. Right?
Well, not exactly.
Puerto Rico is way more than just what tourists see. And right now it's in major crisis mode. Here's why.
1. Puerto Rico is broke.
Like, really broke. About $72 billion in debt.
And this week, they defaulted on their debt. Meaning, they can't pay it off. There was a $58 million bill due on Monday, and they only paid $628,000, a couple of days late.
Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro García Padilla was straight up about it in June:
“The debt is not payable. There is no other option. I would love to have an easier option. This is not politics, this is math.”
How did they get here?
Like many places, (including bankrupt Detroit), Puerto Rico struggled with the global recession in 2008. (Puerto Rico has actually been in recession since 2006.) And they borrowed money to pay for basic things they needed for their population of 3.6 million people. Now they can't pay that money back.
And it's causing all kinds of problems and forcing Puerto Rico to do things they don't want to do, like close schools, because they don't have money to function normally.
2. No one's going to bail them out.
So Puerto Rico is in serious debt. Can't someone just bail them out? Well ... not so fast.
So they don't get all the help a U.S. state would. Because they're not a state, they can't declare bankruptcy. There have been bills in Congress to allow that, but nothing's happened so far.
And with its confusing status as a U.S. territory, they also can't get the help an independent country would from international groups, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They're stuck.
3. They have really high unemployment and poverty.
And almost half of Puerto Ricans are living in poverty.
As much as two-thirds of Puerto Rico's population may be living in the U.S. in 2020. This exodus means less and less taxes to help fund the government and the island's services. And ... deeper in debt they will go.
4. They're having a drought.
Put this on a list of things they can't afford to have right now: The island is in a serious drought. 90 degree weather plus low rainfall equals dry, sweltering misery. July was Puerto Rico's fourth-driest month in recorded history, with only 1.6 inches of rainfall.
5. They're rationing water.
Because of the drought, Puerto Rico is running out of water. Seriously. It's an island surrounded by water, but they barely have enough water supply, which is running out because their reservoirs are drying up.
So they're rationing it. Nearly 400,000 people are having their tap water shut off two days, sometimes even three days, at a time. And this is all happening, you know, hidden away from the tourists.
6. Doctors are fleeing.
Health always comes first, right? Well, not in Puerto Rico.
Because the island is so strapped, Medicare funds may be cut. If they are, people will end up paying more for health services--or they just won't be able to, because they don't have jobs.
And doctors are leaving the island for better jobs. It's so serious, there may be at least one doctor leaving a day. They've had a doctor shortage for years, and now it's reaching serious crisis levels.
Things really aren't looking good in Puerto Rico.
Why should you care?
Three big reasons Puerto Rico's problems reach beyond their island:
1. It's complicated, but in a nutshell, Puerto Rico's financial problems could very well start affecting the economy in the 50 United States.
2. The influx of Puerto Ricans will affect the population and politics in the United States--just in time for the 2016 presidential election.
3. Puerto Rico's woes could affect conversation and policy in the U.S. on things like the minimum wage.
Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.