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Close to 150 acres devastated by fire in Puerto Rico

San Juan, Mar 28 (EFE).- Close to 150 acres (60 hectares) of woodland were devastated before dawn in Puerto Rico by a fire in Adjuntas Forest in the central part of the island. The chief of the Puerto Rican Fire Department, Angel Crespo, said the blaze damaged some 40 percent of the forest and that National Guard helicopters were used to put out the flames. Though the cause of the fire has not been confirmed, Crespo said that "in all probability" it was deliberately set.

US Census reveals population drop across economically struggling Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - New U.S. Census numbers show that Puerto Rico's population is dropping as the U.S. territory struggles to retain people during an economic recession. The U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday that the island's total population fell from about 3.7 million in 2010 to 3.6 million in 2013. Sixty-eight of Puerto Rico's 78 municipalities saw a decline from July 2010 to July 2013. The biggest drops came in the capital of San Juan and cities on the island's west and south.

U.S. shipping law strangling Puerto Rico's economy, studies show

San Juan, Mar 26 (EFE).- A federal law that bans foreign vessels from engaging in coastwise shipping within U.S. territory adversely affects Puerto Rico's troubled economy, according to studies cited by the island's Senate. "Puerto Rico is suffocating" with this law, the chairwoman of the Senate of Puerto Rico's Committee on Civil Rights, Citizen Participation and Social Economy, Rossana Lopez, said.

Expert: Fighting brain drain should be "matter of state" for P.R.

San Juan, Mar 25 (EFE).- The exodus of professionals and young college graduates from Puerto Rico is "unique and very serious" and determining a response should be a "matter of state," according to anthropologist and sociologist Tomas Calvo. "This problem is serious. We have to reflect very seriously on it and develop public policies to combat it," said the Spanish sociologist, who is in Puerto Rico this week to give a series of talks about immigration processes and the responses of society to those changes.

Puerto Rico to crack down on sales-tax evasion

San Juan, Mar 17 (EFE).- The government of Puerto Rico introduced draft legislation requiring businesses to have payment systems certified by island's Treasury Department for the purpose of combating widespread sales-tax evasion. The measure is part of a government strategy to increase the collection of taxes currently being evaded. The government bases its action on a study saying it only receives 56 percent of the sales tax it should collect, representing an annual shortfall of some $900 million.

Puerto Rican bill seeks to check growth of "big box" stores

San Juan, Mar 14 (EFE).- Puerto Rican lawmakers are studying a bill aimed at curbing the expansion of "big box" retail chains, whose growth has triggered the closure of hundreds of small businesses in recent years. The speaker of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, Jaime Perello, says the proposed Small and Medium Enterprise Support Law would require that a study be conducted to estimate the business impact of the opening of any new retail outlet covering a surface area greater than 80,000 sq. feet (7,400 sq. meters).

Encanto Group to invest $200 mn in Puerto Rico resort

San Juan, Mar 11 (EFE).- The Encanto Group, a Puerto Rican company funded by U.S. investors, said it acquired the Punta Candelero Beach Resort Hotel and the Palmas del Mar marina in Humacao, a city on Puerto Rico's east coast, and planned to invest $200 million to renovate the properties. The deal, whose cost was not revealed, includes the Solarea Beach Resort, the Yacht Club Marina and 9.7 hectares (24 acres) of oceanfront land. The Encanto Group plans to build a beachfront hotel and residences, creating 400 jobs during the construction phase.

35 Pct of Puerto Ricans rely on food stamps

San Juan, Mar 10 (EFE).- Thirty-five percent of the population in Puerto Rico receives food stamps, an abnormally large proportion due in part to a 31 percent increase in the number of Puerto Ricans over 60 who qualify for benefits. Seniors account for 264,000 of the 1.3 million people on the island receiving help under the Puerto Rican equivalent of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Puerto Rico governor signs bill authorizing sale of up to $3.5B in bonds amid downgrades

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Puerto Rico's governor has signed a bill that authorizes the sale of up to $3.5 billion in bonds amid recent downgrades to the U.S. territory's credit rating. The announcement Tuesday by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla comes as the U.S. territory prepares to re-enter the bond market this month to help pay off $70 billion in public debt. The bill also allows U.S. investors to sue the island's government if needed in Puerto Rico and New York courts. An earlier version of the bill would have allowed investors to sue Puerto Rico in any U.S. court.

Puerto Rico governor signs bill authorizing sale of up to $3.5B in bonds amid downgrades

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Puerto Rico's governor has signed a bill that authorizes the sale of up to $3.5 billion in bonds amid recent downgrades to the U.S. territory's credit rating. The announcement Tuesday by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla comes as the U.S. territory prepares to re-enter the bond market this month to help pay off $70 billion in public debt. The bill also allows U.S. investors to sue the island's government if needed in Puerto Rico and New York courts. An earlier version of the bill would have allowed investors to sue Puerto Rico in any U.S. court.
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