Future of Puerto Rico

January 19, 2018 • Volume 28, Issue 3
Can the struggling U.S. territory recover?
By Barbara Mantel


Aurea Cruz's house in Vieques is among a half-million (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Ricardo Arduengo)
Aurea Cruz's house in Vieques is among a half-million homes in Puerto Rico damaged or destroyed by hurricanes last September that wrecked the electrical system and badly damaged the economy. Four months later, 40 percent of residents still lack electricity. (Cover: AFP/Getty Images/Ricardo Arduengo)

Puerto Rico is still reeling from two devastating hurricanes last September and an 11-year recession, which have renewed a bitter debate over the U.S. territory's political status. Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged or destroyed nearly 500,000 homes and battered the antiquated electric system, leaving millions without power or shelter and badly hurting the already weak economy. Four months later, 40 percent of Puerto Ricans still lack electricity, and recovery is stymied by what critics say is mismanagement of the government-owned utility and the Trump administration's indifference. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico declared bankruptcy before the storms after saying it could not make payments on its $73 billion public debt. In Maria's aftermath, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans have migrated to Florida or elsewhere, and demographers say the island could lose 14 percent of its population by the end of 2019, further weakening its economy. The struggles have revived debate about whether Puerto Rico should become the 51st state. Advocates say statehood would reinvigorate the island's economy, but opponents say Puerto Rico should focus on economic and political reforms instead.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Puerto Rico
Jan. 19, 2018  Future of Puerto Rico
Oct. 23, 1998  Puerto Rico's Status
Feb. 08, 1991  Puerto Rico: The Struggle Over Status
May 28, 1971  Puerto Rico After Bootstrap
Jun. 26, 1963  Puerto Rico and the Union
Oct. 30, 1942  Problems of Puerto Rico
Budget and the Economy
Congress Actions
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Economic Crises
Electric Power
Emergency Preparedness
Energy Policy
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Natural Disasters
Party Politics
Puerto Rico and other Territories
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels