Athens on the Caribbean

Puerto Rico's Own Financial Crisis

A young man offers water for sale outside a closed pizzeria in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, June 29, 2015. Puerto Rico is "insolvent" and will soon run out of cash, according to a newly appointed adviser to the commonwealth who was the judge who oversaw the historic bankruptcy of Detroit. Alvin Baez-Hernandez / Reuters

The Greek financial crisis is a slow-burning tragedy that threatens to explode into full-blown catastrophe, but in North America, Puerto Rico is going through an even worse crisis. Puerto Rico is unable to pay its $73 billion debt, and 45 percent of the population lives in poverty. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has urged his European counterparts to take action on the crisis in Athens. “What I worry about most is an accident,” he explained in London in late May. “Everyone needs to double down and treat the next move as the last.” But Lew has been far less generous in his own backyard.

After all, the Commonwealth is mired in a decade-long recession marked by double-digit unemployment, a GNP-sized debt, and debt service payments that consume more than 20 percent of every dollar earned in the country—debt that is set to skyrocket still higher the years ahead. Predicted consequences include

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