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Top Puerto Rico bank says four months too long to wait for power

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Puerto Rico needs to accelerate the timetable for restoring its power grid or else residents will flee for the mainland rather than live without electricity for months, the chairman of the territory’s largest bank said on Friday.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, Banco Popular Chairman Richard Carrion said prolonged outages could shrink the U.S. territory’s economy and hurt its banking system. More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island, most of Puerto Rico is still without electricity.

With about $40 billion in assets, Banco Popular is Puerto Rico’s biggest financial institution. Carrion said 85 of the bank’s 169 branches were open, and that only about 40 percent of its cash machines were operating.

Puerto Rican authorities have estimated that it will take at least four months to restore the electrical grid, something Carrion says is “not acceptable.”

“The economy will suffer, and it may push people who are on the fence to say, ‘we’re leaving’,” he said, potentially pushing the bankrupt territory into even worse financial straits.

About 85 percent of the electricity that was used on the island before Maria is no longer being delivered to customers, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Wide areas are marred by telephone poles snapped in two by the storm, leaving transmission lines in tangled roadside heaps.

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Carrion said 90 percent of the island’s point of sale terminals, where people buy things with a swipe of their bank card, were still not running. The situation has increased the need for cash, a demand that the U.S. Federal Reserve has met by flying in money.

He said he also worries about the effect Maria will have on Puerto Rico’s ability to deliver a debt restructuring that would be acceptable to holders of the territory’s defaulted bonds.

Asked when a debt deal might be clinched, Carrion said: “If you would have asked that before Maria, we would have said it could be done before the end of the year.”

Now, he said, it’s anybody’s bet.

(Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Sue Horton and David Gregorio)

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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Virginia Democrats are so fired up that the party chair had to scold them: ‘Sit down — be quiet’

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Democrats in Virginia are fired up as they gathered in Richmond for their annual gala dinner.

Political analysts believe the Democratic Party of Virginia has a good chance to win control of the state legislature in 2019's election, before setting their sights on the Commonwealth continuing its recent trend of voting Democratic in presidential elections.

Patrick Wilson, a political reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, attended the event.

He reported that Democrats were so "noisy" that it was hard to hear the speakers, which include presidential candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

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‘Everyone knows what to expect’ at Trump’s Amway Center re-election kickoff

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Donald Trump considers himself a legendary salesman, but can he really sell America on giving him four more drama-filled years at the White House?

Tuesday, he'll make his big pitch.

The 2020 reelection kickoff rally is being held in Orlando, Florida and campaign operations chief Michael Glassner says the "historic" event "has already generated tens of thousands of ticketing requests."

There's little mystery about how the night will go down.

Expect Trump, the self-promoting hero of his ghost-written book "The Art of the Deal," to claim the US economy is richer, the military stronger, and the country more respected than ever in history.

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Florida man’s own family blasts him after he was arrested for racist threats: ‘This isn’t how we were raised’

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After a Florida man was arrested for trying to start a race war, a member of his own family slammed his values.

"A Florida man’s social media posts that threatened violence against African-Americans, Jews and homosexuals and that urged his followers to start a race war netted him a $1 million bond," the Miami Herald reported Saturday. "And then there’s another $100,000 bond he would have to pay to get out of Lee County Jail because of a weapons charge."

Joshua Leff, 40, is being held in the Lee County Jail.

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