happening in puerto rico
August 9, 2020

Election officials in Puerto Rico said Sunday's primary was temporarily suspended because several precincts on the island did not receive ballots.

The State Elections Commission later announced that in precincts that were unable to open by 1:45 p.m., voters will have the chance to cast their ballots on August 16 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., CNN reports. In some areas, voters waited for hours in the heat, wearing their required face masks, only to be turned away and told there weren't any ballots.

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced on Twitter said this was "totally unacceptable and outrageous! What the State Elections Commission did today is unprecedented and there is no excuse that can support it." She called on the head of the commission to step down, and said they "lied" to make it appear they were prepared for the election. Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2020

President Trump on Thursday "declared that a major disaster exists in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" following a string of earthquakes that have damaged much of the island and left at least one person dead.

Puerto Rican officials and several other lawmakers had asked the Trump administration for the designation, which is a level above an "emergency" declaration and will authorize further funding and recovery resources. Thursday's action makes federal funding available to six municipalities in Puerto Rico, including grants for temporary housing and repairs, loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other recovery programs for individuals and businesses

Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced requested the declaration last week, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Trump's signature along with a statement outlining the included programs, reports CBS News' David Begnaud.

Local officials began to dip into Puerto Rico's emergency fund after being left uncertain whether the federal government would provide any further aid. The Trump administration also recently began to release long-withheld disaster relief money allocated after Hurricane Maria, but it came with severe restrictions. Read more at The Hill and The New York Times. Summer Meza

January 16, 2020

Puerto Rico hasn't heard back from the White House, so officials are taking matters into their own hands.

After the U.S. territory was hit with yet another significant earthquake on Wednesday, rattling the island even further as residents scramble to recover from a series of tremors up to 6.4 magnitude in recent weeks, Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced requested the White House declared a major disaster. President Trump did approve some federal emergency funding for the island, but declaring a "major disaster" — rather than an "emergency" — would authorize further federal funding. The request for the new designation came on Jan. 11, but officials still haven't gotten a response, despite pleading letters both from Florida congressmembers and more than two dozen Democratic senators, reports CBS News' David Begnaud.

Without any additional government help in sight, Vázquez Garced decided to disburse the island's emergency funds to regional officials, reports Begnaud. "They aren't waiting on [Trump] to approve new aid," he wrote. There's $260 million in emergency reserve cash, from a fund that was established after Hurricane Maria's devastation. The Trump administration still hasn't released $8 billion in funds allocated for Puerto Rico's hurricane recovery, reports The Hill, so the island's own backup fund is the best way to ensure it has quick access to money.

While Puerto Rico drains half of its entire emergency fund, the Trump administration imposed "severe restrictions" on billions of dollars in aid for the island, reports The New York Times. The new requirements bar Puerto Rico from paying its $15 minimum wage to contractors working on federally funded disaster projects, and restrict any money from going toward the island's delicate power grid. If Puerto Rico doesn't agree to the requirements, the administration could withhold the allocated funding entirely, reports The Washington Post. A White House spokesperson called the restrictions on emergency funding "a great win for Puerto Ricans and U.S. taxpayers." Summer Meza

July 24, 2019

Puerto Rico's legislature has started the impeachment process against Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, following widespread outrage over leaked sexist and homophobic private messages between Rosselló and close aides and advisers.

Johnny Mendez, speaker of the House of Representatives, commissioned an independent panel of lawyers to investigate the messages, and they determined that four felonies and one misdemeanor may have been committed during the group chats, attorney Luis Rodriguez-Rivera told Reuters. Since the messages were leaked earlier this month, there have been massive protests in Puerto Rico, with demonstrators demanding Rosselló step down. On Sunday, he said he would not seek re-election in 2020, but did not plan on leaving office early.

Several media outlets reported earlier on Wednesday that Rosselló is expected to announce this week that he will in fact resign. Catherine Garcia

September 27, 2017

One week after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, about 44 percent of the population remains without drinking water, the Defense Department said Wednesday.

There are 3.4 million people living in the U.S. territory, and residents are concerned that the water supply is being contaminated by garbage, which could lead to a health crisis. There are also fears that if this happens, the hospitals won't be able to accept new patients, since they are without power and barely have enough fuel to power generators. Residents say garbage is floating in the water that still floods the streets, and some of the homes that do have running water don't have power and can't safely boil the water.

"This paradise has turned into hell lately in the last couple of days," Dr. Gregorio Cortés told NBC News in a phone interview. "Pharmacies and supermarkets are starting to close because they don't have enough diesel supply to keep running so people are having less and less opportunity to find drinking water and food or supplies." He also said that when word gets out that a certain store has water, there's a run on it, and people who show up late don't get anything. Cortés has running water, and said he boils it then filters it for safety, but some homes that don't have power can't boil their water. Worrying about potable water is "everyday life for us now," he said. Catherine Garcia

September 21, 2016

The lights are out across much of Puerto Rico, following a fire Wednesday at a power plant that provides electricity to most of the U.S. territory.

Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority announced that it is investigating the failure of two transmission lines of 230,000 volts each, and spokesman Yohari Molina told The Associated Press he is not sure when power will be restored. Fire officials say the blaze is out, but the outage caused an additional 15 fires across Puerto Rico, the result of malfunctioning generators. One fire was at a hotel in the popular tourist area of Condado, but officials say all of those fires have been extinguished and no one was hurt.

With the power out, schools, businesses, and government offices closed early, leading to traffic jams. Transportation Secretary Miguel Torres called on people to "cooperate and respect drivers and government officials... to avoid any regrettable incidents." On social media, many Puerto Ricans are questioning the cause of the fire, and lamenting the fact that their power bills are on average twice that of the U.S. mainland, AP reports. Officials with the Electric Power Authority, which has faced allegations of corruption, say they need more revenue in order to replace outdated equipment. The company has $9 billion in debt it is hoping to restructure. Catherine Garcia

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