Friday, May 20, 2022

Think Strategically: Puerto Rico is America

By on October 20, 2017

President Trump & His Beloved Tweets: Why now and what for?

President Trump reminded every U.S. Citizen from Puerto Rico how he feels about Puerto Ricans with three tweets alluding to the federal government not being able to help Puerto Rico “forever.” The tweets created a wave of responses and enraged most of the local political leaders as well as a whole nation that is suffering from a traumatic devastation.

These are the tweets so that you may draw your conclusion:

  • We cannot keep FEMA, the military & the first responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult of circumstances) in P.R. forever!
  • “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes; now a financial crisis looms largely from their making.” Says Sharyl Attkinson. A total lack of…
  • …accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was a disaster before Hurricanes. Congress decides how much to spend.

Immediately following the tweets, Governor Ricardo Rosselló responded with the following tweet:

The U.S. Citizens of Puerto Rico are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens would receive across our nation.

FEMA’s mission, it says, “is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.”

To set the record straight, Puerto Ricans are American, with 3.4 million residents locally and another 5.4 million, or 1.7% of the total U.S. population, scattered across the U.S., mostly in the Tri-State area (NY, NJ, CT), Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Texas. Now in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the number of Puerto Ricans moving stateside has increased 200%, this means Puerto Ricans will become an even stronger force in swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania.

If the migration trends follow anything close to what happened in New Orleans after Katrina, which initially lost 50% of its population and only recovered about 30% of its population and still has a net loss of 20% 12 years later.

The ocean frontier that Puerto Rico has with the U.S. mainland may not allow for an initial loss of 50%. However, according to data reviewed by Birling Capital Advisors, Puerto Rico could lose 600,000 to 750,000 residents. Should this happen, President Trump will face a tremendously increased number of Puerto Rican voters who will remember he added insult to injury. Politicians’ day of reckoning usually occur in two ways, when they are caught in a scandal or when losing badly in re-election, so our message to President Trump, “We promise we will throw your re-election out of whack.”

What Does It mean to be a U.S. Citizen in a U.S. Territory?

  • Puerto Ricans pay federal taxes such as Social Security and Medicare. However, we only obtain partial benefits.
  • Puerto Ricans join the military and have gone to WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and others.
  • Puerto Ricans do not pay federal income tax.
  • Unlike states, we do not have a vote in Congress, we can send one resident commissioner who cannot vote.
  • Puerto Rico gets to vote in presidential primaries and sends delegates to the conventions. However, we do not vote in the Presidential election.
  • Puerto Ricans have been U.S. Citizens for more than 100 Years.
  • Puerto Ricans can travel freely in the U.S.A.
  • Puerto Ricans living in any of the 50 states enjoy all the benefits equally.

The question about Puerto Rico’s recovery: What is slowing the progress?

A month after Hurricane Maria, power generation for Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents without electricity is about 20% and Gov. Rosselló has promised that 95% of residents would have electricity by Dec. 15. To achieve the aggressive target, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) will significantly increase its number brigades, from 294 as of Sept. 25, to more than 966,1 a 228% increase. With the additional help of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and more than 60 local and stateside private companies.

The USACE and FEMA have provided north of $225 million in financial support with more to come.
Wondering whether the perception that power restoration has been slow, Birling analyzed the aftermath in Florida and compared it with Puerto Rico. Below are the numbers.

*Government of Puerto Rico estimate

US House Speaker Paul Ryan’s visit

House Speaker Paul Ryan arrived in Puerto Rico with a bi-partisan delegation that toured several of the impacted areas and stated, “This is not the last aid package. This is the second in more to come, and when we get the final analysis, the administration will submit yet again to Congress to request for another aid package to respond to long-term problems.” Congress will continue to provide aid to Puerto Rico to help the island recover and rebuild.

During the press conference, Speaker Ryan told reporters, “There is so much work to be done, and we want everyone to know we are committed to getting this done.”

Paul Ryan is a crucial ally for Puerto Rico and is someone who profoundly understands politics, policy and its impact on communities and states and is someone we should keep in our corner.

Puerto Rico Update: On the path to recovery, checking some facts.

Puerto Rico continues to suffer from a devastated telecommunications network and, according to, telecom services are operating at 62%. However, this number includes landlines and wireless service. We proceeded to visit the Federal Communications Commission’s website,, which produces a report on the wireless network status, and these are the facts.

In Puerto Rico’s 68.2% of the cell sites are out of service. Eleven of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities had all their cell sites knocked out of commision. The four major wireless companies have opened up island roaming to collectively serve the maximum population possible with the current coverage available. Coordinating and prioritizing the recovery of cell sites and placement of temporary assets with the carriers to maximize the coverage for subscribers.

satellite cells on light trucks (COLTs) have been deployed in Aguadilla, Arecibo, Cayey, Coamo, Fajardo, Guayama, Manati, Mayagüez, San Germán, Vega Baja, and Yauco.

Cells on wheels (COWs)/COLTs have been placed in Humacao, Quebradillas, Río Grande and Utuado. Approximately 60% of the population is covered by wireless carriers in Puerto Rico.

Economic Setting

Hurricane Maria impacted an economy that was operating under a long process of economic contraction that weakened its infrastructure, production activities and, its adaptability. With 11 years of declining investment in infrastructure, combined with a fragile fiscal condition, it produced the worst possible scenario for Puerto Rico.

For a month our economic engine has been at a standstill with no certainty when our circumstances will improve. We have a long road ahead that will produce many business closures and bankruptcies

Final Word: How many of our neighbors lost their homes?

One of the worst outcomes from this and most hurricanes is the loss of one’s home.

Across Puerto Rico, we have seen the hundreds of houses without roofs or destroyed. In a Home Builders Association-requested study, prepared by consulting firm Estudios Técnicos Inc., an estimated 60,000 to 90,000 homes were lost.

With the demographics currently having 2.7 to 3.2 residents per household, this translates that 162,000 to 288,000 of our neighbors lost their homes.

A recent report from Moody’s Investors Service estimates that 100,000 homes were destroyed, and some 250,000 sustained partial damages.

Ducks perch on the branch of a tree next to a home destroyed by Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. President Donald Trump lashed out at hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico on Thursday, insisting in tweets that the federal government can’t keep sending help “forever” and suggesting the U.S. territory was to blame for its financial struggles. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

According to these numbers, 8.4% of Puerto Rico’s population lost their homes, and with 250,000 homes with the partial damage, we could have between 8.4% or 288,000 to 12% 408,000 of our society is without permanent housing.

With 60% of Puerto Rico’s housing units built without permits and thousands more that do not have a title to their homes, the picture turns dire.

FEMA will pay 75% of reconstruction costs to those who can prove they own their homes, but what happens to those who can’t. We must figure out an alternative way to help them rebuild their homes. Nothing provides a greater sense of purpose than having one’s own home.

Where we love, is home, a home our feet may leave, but not our hearts.

Francisco Rodriguez-Castro, President & CEO of Birling Capital Advisors LLC

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