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    Many Puerto Ricans relocated to Florida after Hurricane Maria and could be key in deciding the outcome of the critical swing state. Donald Trump on Friday claimed he was the "best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico," despite personally blocking funding to the U.S. territory for years, even as the island tried to rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017. At a White House news conference, Trump announced a new aid package supposedly intended to help Puerto Rico's recovery process. The money, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement earlier on Friday, will be used to "replace thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines, electrical substations, power generation systems, office buildings and make other grid improvements" and "will focus on restoring school buildings and educational facilities across the island." "I have to say in a very nice way, very respectful way, I’m the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico," Trump said during the afternoon press conference. "Nobody even close."
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A group of legislators probing the failed government purchase of $38 million worth of COVID-19 testing kits referred the names of 11 people including top public officials to the FBI and other agencies on Monday for further investigation. The report issued by the health committee of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives comes amid an ongoing investigation into the purchase order canceled earlier this year, with the government recuperating its $19 million deposit. Among those who could face further scrutiny is Puerto Rico’s chief of staff, the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the presidents of companies that had pledged to deliver the kits. Those named in the report have denied any wrongdoing. One manufacturing company said it was selling the kits for less than half the value identified by one Puerto Rico company involved. Gov. Wanda Vázquez had initially defended the attempted purchase, only to do an abrupt turn around a week later. She also ordered canceled all unrelated government contracts awarded to the companies under scrutiny. It’s still unclear who...
    By DÁNICA COTO, Associated Press SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor on Monday declared a state of emergency as a worsening drought creeps across the U.S. territory amid a coronavirus pandemic. Starting July 2, nearly 140,000 clients, including some in the capital of San Juan, will be without water for 24 hours every other day as part of strict rationing measures. Puerto Rico's utilities company urged people to not excessively stockpile water because it would worsen the situation, and officials asked that everyone use masks and maintain social distancing if they seek water from one of 23 water trucks set up across the island. “We're asking people to please use moderation,” said Doriel Pagán, executive director of Puerto Rico's Water and Sewer Authority, adding that she could not say how long the rationing measures will last. Fernanda Ramos, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service in San Juan, said ongoing dry conditions will be interrupted by thunderstorms forecast to affect the island on Wednesday and Thursday. “However, we are not expecting enough rain... to solve the...
    NEW YORK (AP) — Luis Rigoberto Varela, who worked nearly 40 years as a correspondent for the now defunct Spanish desk of The Associated Press in Puerto Rico and covered five Olympics and numerous international sports events, has died. He was 82. His son told the AP that Varela died late Tuesday at a hospital in Ponce, a southern coastal city in Puerto Rico, after facing complications from a June 11 intestinal surgery. “We’re very sad, but we’re also very satisfied and moved by all the support,” said his son, also named Luis Varela. “He lived a full life, well lived.” Varela left his native Cuba in 1958 and settled in Puerto Rico, where he started a nearly six-decade career in journalism. His specialty was sports, particularly baseball, track and field, basketball and volleyball. He also had a program — Sports Trench — on the Catholic Radio station. He served as a mentor to AP colleagues in Puerto Rico and around the region. “I never saw someone so passionate about their profession. He lived for journalism,” said Pablo Elías Giussani,...
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A vast cloud of Sahara dust is blanketing the Caribbean as it heads to the US with a size and concentration that experts say hasn’t been seen in half a century. Air quality across most of the region fell to record “hazardous” levels and experts who nicknamed the event the “Godzilla dust cloud” warned people to stay indoors and use air filters if they have one. “This is the most significant event in the past 50 years,” said Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an environmental health specialist with the University of Puerto Rico. “Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands.” Many health specialists were concerned about those battling respiratory symptoms tied to COVID-19. Lázaro, who is working with NASA to develop an alert system for the arrival of Sahara dust, said the concentration was so high in recent days that it could even have adverse effects on healthy people. Extremely hazy conditions and limited visibility were reported from Antigua down to Trinidad & Tobago, with the event expected to last until late Tuesday. Some people posted...
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A vast cloud of Sahara dust is blanketing the Caribbean as it heads to the U.S. with a size and concentration that experts say hasn't been seen in half a century.Air quality across most of the region fell to record "hazardous" levels and experts who nicknamed the event the "Godzilla dust cloud" warned people to stay indoors and use air filters if they have one."This is the most significant event in the past 50 years," said Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an environmental health specialist with the University of Puerto Rico. "Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands."Many health specialists were concerned about those battling respiratory symptoms tied to COVID-19. Lázaro, who is working with NASA to develop an alert system for the arrival of Sahara dust, said the concentration was so high in recent days that it could even have adverse effects on healthy people.Extremely hazy conditions and limited visibility were reported from Antigua down to Trinidad & Tobago, with the event expected to last until late Tuesday. Some people posted pictures of themselves on social...
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- A vast cloud of Sahara dust is blanketing the Caribbean as it heads to the U.S. with a size and concentration that experts say hasn't been seen in half a century.Air quality across most of the region fell to record "hazardous" levels and experts who nicknamed the event the "Godzilla dust cloud" warned people to stay indoors and use air filters if they have one."This is the most significant event in the past 50 years," said Pablo Méndez Lázaro, an environmental health specialist with the University of Puerto Rico. "Conditions are dangerous in many Caribbean islands."Many health specialists were concerned about those battling respiratory symptoms tied to COVID-19. Lázaro, who is working with NASA to develop an alert system for the arrival of Sahara dust, said the concentration was so high in recent days that it could even have adverse effects on healthy people.Extremely hazy conditions and limited visibility were reported from Antigua down to Trinidad & Tobago, with the event expected to last until late Tuesday. Some people posted pictures of themselves on social...
    By DÁNICA COTO, Associated Press SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico officials said Monday that a consortium of Canadian and U.S. firms will take over the transmission and distribution system of the island’s public power company in a long-awaited announcement involving one of the largest public utilities in a U.S. jurisdiction. The deal marks the first time those operations will be privately managed since Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority was founded in 1941 and became a public utility in 1979, raising hopes that a company long accused of corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency could be reformed and modernized, leading to fewer outages and improved service. “You have a titanic challenge before you,” said Omar Marrero, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority. The message was directed to LUMA, a consortium made up of Canadian firm ATCO Ltd. and U.S.-based companies Quanta Services Inc. and IEM. It was awarded a multimillion-dollar contract for 15 years that will allow the island’s power company to retain ownership of the transmission and distribution system as part of a public-private...
    SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico officials said Monday that a consortium of Canadian and U.S. firms will take over the transmission and distribution system of the island’s public power company in a long-awaited announcement involving one of the largest public utilities in a U.S. jurisdiction. The deal marks the first time those operations will be privately managed since Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority was founded in 1941 and became a public utility in 1979, raising hopes that a company long accused of corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency could be reformed and modernized, leading to fewer outages and improved service. “You have a titanic challenge before you,” said Omar Marrero, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority. The message was directed to LUMA, a consortium made up of Canadian firm ATCO Ltd. and U.S.-based companies Quanta Services Inc. and IEM. It was awarded a multimillion-dollar contract for 15 years that will allow the island’s power company to retain ownership of the transmission and distribution system as part of a public-private partnership, the third for Puerto Rico in...
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s government announced water rationing measures on Friday as 26% of the U.S. territory faces a severe drought amid the pandemic. The island’s utilities company said water will be shut off for eight hours a day starting Saturday in several neighborhoods in the northern municipalities of Canovanas and Loiza. “We don’t know how long this is going to last,” said Roberto Martínez, the company’s director for the metropolitan region as he urged everyone to be prudent in their water use. Another 57% of the island is experiencing a moderate drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Water trucks will be available during the rationing, Martínez said. Other parts of the Caribbean are experiencing similar problems, with short-term severe drought reported in certain areas of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Meanwhile, officials in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe have extended water rationing measures that began in April until late July. Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Federal officials on Monday praised Puerto Rico’s hurricane preparedness and pledged additional help as they reviewed disaster recovery efforts during the start of a weeklong visit to the U.S. territory. Rear Admiral Peter Brown, the island’s federal reconstruction coordinator, said the island is better prepared this hurricane season than the time before Hurricane Maria struck as a Category 4 storm, killing an estimated 2,975 people in its aftermath and causing more than an estimated $100 billion in damage. He said much progress has been made to prepare for what is forecast to be an unusually active hurricane season despite recent setbacks including a series of strong earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic. Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez said more than 300 shelters are available and capable of housing some 42,000 people with social distancing measures. She added that the government also has more than 10,000 cots, hundreds of generators and more than 6,000 meals available, three times that before Maria struck. Brown is expected to tour the island along with officials from agencies including the...
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Federal officials said they seized more than $2 million that had been dumped in waters near the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on Monday following a boat chase. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the money was found in bags likely thrown overboard by unidentified people who fled. The incident occurred near the popular tourist island of Vieques, just east of Puerto Rico’s main island. Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.
    MONTCLAIR, New Jersey -- In addition to its rich culture and traditions, Puerto Rico is also known for its cuisine and its signature dish... El Mofongo."Mofongo in Puerto Rico is arguably the most important dish in the island," said Kenny Candelaria, owner of Cocina Candela.The Mofongo, which dates back to the early 1500s, is a fusion of Puerto Rico's Spanish, African and Taíno background."The original Mofongo is made up of deep fried plantains, mashed with garlic, olive oil, salt and crackling pork rinds," said Candelaria.Over the years, people have gotten creative with their versions of Mofongo, which led Candelaria to create his own version made up of Malanga and topped off with any type of protein which can include, beef, chicken or seafood."My cuisine not only represents who I am, but also my grandparents and Puerto Rico," said Candelaria.----------Contact Community Journalist Miguel AmayaSubmit a tip to MiguelFollow Miguel on FacebookFollow @Miguelabc7NY on TwitterFollow @Miguelabc7NY on Instagram
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico’s governor announced Thursday that she will lift nearly all restrictions aimed at curbing coronavirus cases, which means beaches, churches and businesses including movie theaters and gyms across the U.S. territory will reopen after three months. Gov. Wanda Vázquez said the changes will occur starting June 16, when businesses also will be allowed to operate seven days a week. However, she tweaked an ongoing curfew that will remain in place for two weeks from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. She also said Puerto Rico will be officially ready to welcome tourists starting July 15 and that airport screenings will continue. “These have been hard decisions,” she said. “Now it’s up to each one of us…to decide where to go and how to go about it.” The island of 3.2 million people has reported more than 1,400 confirmed cases and nearly 4,000 probable cases, with at least 144 deaths. But critics say the island has done too little testing, and most of it using the wrong sort of tests. Masks will still be...
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A judge on Thursday gave Puerto Rico’s education secretary 24 hours to open all public school cafeterias in the U.S. territory or face arrest as impoverished students struggle to obtain free meals amid the pandemic. The ruling is the latest development in a lawsuit that several mothers and nonprofit organizations had filed in late April to demand the reopening of cafeterias that serve 292,000 students, of whom nearly 70% are poor, and had remained closed for some two months amid the pandemic. Since then, the Department of Education has reopened only some cafeterias as activists warn that students remain in need of meals on an island of 3.2 million people with a poverty rate that is higher than any U.S. state. Among them are the two sons of Delia Vicente, whose school cafeteria in an impoverished neighborhood in the capital of San Juan remains closed. Vicente said she and her husband canceled one cell phone contract and rely heavily on food stamps in order to afford food for their sons. “We’ll do anything for...
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A report published Wednesday accused Puerto Rico’s government of giving unfair advantage to a company that obtained a $1.5 billion contract and secured the first large generation project since Hurricane Maria. The island’s power authority disputed the report’s claims. The Ohio-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a nonprofit research company, said in its report that it obtained documents in part via litigation that show an irregular process leading up to the contract awarded to New Fortress Energy to deliver natural gas. The report accuses Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority of meeting repeatedly with company officials after receiving an unsolicited proposal and providing them with advance information on the two power stations that would start operating on natural gas instead of diesel. The contract signed in March 2019 “appears to repeat many of the same offenses that has brought the agency and Puerto Rico to its current state of insolvency,” the report said. The report, which was co-authored by Ingrid Vila Biaggi, a former Puerto Rico chief of staff, also accused...
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Two people died Tuesday and a third is in serious condition after a small plane crashed into waters near Puerto Rico’s capital, authorities said. Police said the Piper Aztec plane owned by local carrier Vieques Air Link hit the masts of two sailboats before crashing into the San Juan Bay. Police said rescue crews were able to save one person found alive in the water. They said all three aboard were men, but did not immediately identify them. Vieques Air Link is based in Puerto Rico and flies to the neighboring islands of Vieques and Culebra. It wasn’t immediately clear where the plane that crashed was heading. Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.
    SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - For the first time in nearly a century, Puerto Rico overhauled a series of laws that regulate rights in the U.S. territory including marriage, abortion and property ownership without having held any public hearings. Gov. Wanda Vázquez on Monday night signed into law a new civil code that replaces the one created in 1930 and contains more than 130 amendments, raising concerns that some could lead to certain loopholes in what is considered Puerto Rico’s second most important legal document after its Constitution. “We will never have a civil code with 100% consensus,” she said as she defended the new code, adding there will always be room to improve or change it. TOP STORIES Chattanooga police chief tells officers OK with George Floyd death to turn in badges COVID-19 turning out to be huge hoax perpetrated by media George Soros, 89, is still on a quest to destroy America Vázquez said she consulted numerous experts including judges and professors as part of an effort that began more than 20 years ago. Critics agree...
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