La Noche de San Juan this past Saturday. This year's aftermath was certainly not an anomaly. Nevertheless, it drew much ire on social networks. "Thanks Puerto Rico, for maintaining our country as one of the worst," wrote M. Lopez on El Nuevo Día's Facebook page. This scathing remark was in response to an article which appeared in the island's largest newspaper, titled "Indiferencia total hacia el ambiente" (translation: "Total Indifference Towards the Environment"). Sadly, it's not just Mother Nature taking a beating though. When people have such complete disregard for one of their island's most treasured assets, it demonstrates a tremendous sense of disillusion and hopelessness.
As in the mainland U.S, this is also an election year for Puerto Rico. Confidence in the local government is practically nonexistent. Not surprisingly, voter turnout is expected to be much lower than previous years. It wouldn't surprise me if voters decide to simply flip a coin right before they head to the voting booth. The candidates from the two leading parties, the pro-statehood (PNP) and pro-status quo (PPD), are deemed to be the same dog but with different collar ("el mismo perro con diferente collar" is a popular saying in Spanish). Mired in corruption, crime, and economic recession, unsurprisingly, most Boricuas' outlook on the future of their island is less than rosy. Neither the pro-independence or any other party has gained any momentum despite the failings of the PNP and PPD.
Over the past year, a number of politicians and government officials from both main parties were forced to leave office because they didn't pay their electric or water (sometimes both) bills. Shockingly, it turns out that one of Gov. Fortuño's nominees to head the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority had allegedly tampered with his electric meter to reflect a lower reading. The guy was also behind on his electricity bills. No, I'm not joking. Let's not even get started on those involved in bribes and other skulduggeries. Let's focus on a bit of good news though. Last year, the murder rate in Puerto Rico was just over 1,130, making it the most violent in the island's history. This year is expected to be just a bit lower. There were 364 murders reported at the end of last month, this is 97 less than the year before.
There is no good news when it comes to the economy. The island is heading towards a financial cliff of its own. Earlier this month, Standard & Poor's downgraded Puerto Rico's debt rating from stable to negative. Unemployment still stands at over 14%, although many work in the underground economy and don't file any income taxes. The island keeps borrowing to cover its debts, but it will one day max out its credit and will surely ask Washington for a bailout. What Puerto Rico lacks is strong vision and leadership, someone who can stay above the political fray, and work with people of all political colors. Another crucial factor ailing this island is the absence of a strong work ethic and the willingness to hustle. Until then, the partying continues and the garbage will keep piling up.
(Photo Credit: El Nuevo Día/ Ramon Zayas)