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Puerto Rico Hurricane Recovery Update

Discussions of Puerto Rico now feel as though there is a Before and After: before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the territory, and after the disaster struck.

At Puerto Rico Report, our focus is on the political status of Puerto Rico. Current views on the status of Puerto Rico include these:

  • Ignore the political status of Puerto Rico until the Island has recovered from the 2017 Hurricane season. Unfortunately, just like the preceding suggestion of ignoring the political status of Puerto Rico until the Island recovers from the debt crisis, it isn’t really possible. Rebuilding Puerto Rico as a State will be different from rebuilding Puerto Rico as a territory or an independent nation. The status decision has to be made before effective solutions can be implemented.
  • Statehood is the only realistic option for rebuilding Puerto Rico. “Without the equal rights and responsibilities that are only available through statehood, Puerto Rico will never truly recover and prosper from the hurricane effects,” Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez Colon said on the House floor. “That’s the reason we demand and deserve statehood for Puerto Rico now.”
  • Independence is essential for rebuilding Puerto Rico. Clear statements of this claim are harder to find. However, Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mayor of San Juan said, “I think this is also the time now to look at the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States and ensure that Puerto Rico stop being a colony of the United States once and for all.” This may imply a commitment to independence for the Island.

We do not see claims that continuing as an unincorporated territory is the best solution for Puerto Rico, but ignoring the political status of the territory would have the effect of leaving Puerto Rico in that status.

How is the disaster recovery going?

FEMA infographic as of October, 2017

FEMA’s reports have focused on the quantity of help being provided.

Puerto Rico’s government website on the disaster,, is keeping track of the percentage of people who currently have access to services. As of this writing, some information has not been updated since December.

It is expected that getting the numbers to 100% for basic services will take months more. And as Puerto Rico moves out of crisis mode, creditors are speaking up.

Predictions for recovery depend on what future status is assumed for Puerto Rico, of course, but they tend to estimate decades for full economic recovery.

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