The hands of Leonel de Jesús Ubiles are hardened with years of work. His entire life has been spent lifting and carrying, welding and hammering, and sweating in the hot Caribbean sun. It is not easy being a construction worker in Toa Baja, especially when you are 57 years old. But for Ubiles it became much worse, when he became unemployed.
The “official” unemployment rate in Puerto Rico is hovering at around 14 percent, but the real unemployment is closer to 25 percent. Youth unemployment is “officially” at 27 percent, but in reality it is close to 50 percent. The island’s poverty rate of 45% is higher than any state in America, and the per capita income of $16,560 is roughly half that of Mississippi, the poorest state in the US.
Despite all this – thanks to an 11.5 percent sales tax, and water rates rising by 67%, and gasoline taxes rising twice in one year, and electricity rates at 29 cents per kilowatt hour, and milk costing costing over $6 per gallon – the cost of living in Puerto Rico is higher than anywhere in the continental United States.
All of this hit Leonel de Jesús Ubiles very hard when he became unemployed. He looked for work everywhere but the contruction industry was flat. Jobs were scarce all over the island and, especially in the construction industry, you either had to buy a job or know a politician. If not you were out of luck, and out of a job.
Ubiles was out of luck. The weeks stretched into months, and he could no longer pay his bills. In early 2015 he became homeless, after a lifetime of building homes for other people. He tried to find work, tried to find assistance, but he found nothing. Finally in June, he started to beg the local police to arrest him, so that he could at least eat a full meal in jail.
Finally on June 22, 2015, Ubiles scraped together a few dollars and bought a small packet of marijuana. He then presented himself to the police, gave them the marijuana, and demanded that they arrest him.
Leonel de Jesús Ubiles
The police had no choice, but the word spread quickly through Toa Baja, especially when radio station WKAQ began reporting on it. It became so embarrassing that the mayor of Toa Baja, Aníbal Vega Borges, personally paid the $2,000 bail, and some temporary housing and social services were found for Ubiles.
On the surface, Mayor Borges sounds like a generous man. But as of 2012, the mayor of Toa Baja makes $67,800 a year. Before that, for twelve years, he was a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. In other words, Borges is a career politician.
When he took office in 2005, Toa Baja had a surplus of $4.2 million. Within five years by 2010, with Borges as mayor, Toa Baja had a déficit of $22.7 million.
Puerto Rico has 78 mayors, whose average salary is almost exactly that of Mayor Borges. No one knows exactly what all these mayors do – except collect their paychecks, give jobs to their family and friends, and accumulate enormous budget deficits.
Mayor Aníbal Vega Borges
But on that day, when Radio WKAQ and El Nuevo Dia started reporting Ubiles’ predicament, Mayor Borges knew exactly what he had to do. He had to get Ubiles out of jail and away from the media, as soon as possible.
This is how bad things are getting in Puerto Rico: where a 57-year old construction worker has to beg the pólice to arrest him, and throw him in jail, in order to be able to eat. Just to survive, Leonel de Jesús Ubiles had to commit an act of utter desperation and humiliation.
This desperation is growing, all over the island.
peace, europe has no right to rule any land in the western hemisphere, is why spanish speaking community is so wrong to claim spain as their government in the western hemisphere. spain had no right to rule puerto rico or any other western hemisphere land. just like western hemisphere has no right to rule any european land, same goes throughout the planet, such as asia has no right to rule the land in europe or africa, & vice versa etc… how much homelessness is caused in north america because spanish speaking people continue to push spanish langauge from europe throughout the land, causing everything to be printed in american & spanish, or spoken also in spanish after its spoken in american, that is costly, dividing what is unified already. the government is american & has been in the united states since 1776. with population doubling in a few decades with no new land formed to house & feed people, so people have to get along better with each other & live in closer living arrangements. till a continent is formed in the middle of the pacific ocean as an example that can house 3 billion people, same with growing food, bettter use of the land to grow what is needed to be consumed, so better education is needed & ways to cause better crop production, till another continent exist & how long will that take? we’d have to plan on maybe millions of years where we need to live better with each other then ever has happened on earth. we need to be one people not two. how to resolve the problem? well i believe people may need to recognized that having a 2nd language in a nation is costing more then when only one language is utilized. many immigrants have come to the united states, many millions recently, & they need to know that the people utilize the american language, the original language the government has communicated as for hundreds of years. & there will be less taxing us if the government doesn’t have to have everything said & printed in 2 languages, then that tax money can be utilized for housing, medical, food, clothing, transportation & education, lowering prices so poverty level people, can have basic necessities met, food, clothing, housing, medical, transportation & education. peace
Thanks for sharing this. It really makes one thankful for what they have, and should make one ashamed for complaining about what we do not have, when we have so much! This poor man, how my heart breaks for him, and the others like him. I pray daily for the homeless, the hungry, the poor, and the thirsty. When we are not these four things, how blessed we are. God Bless, SR
For the record, Cuba was fighting their Independence war with Spain. The US went to help Cuba fight the war, when the war was “won” the US demanded PR from Spain as a war bounty in 1898.
Reblogged this on freepuertorico.
This was an interesting and simple read. It speaks volumes to the fact that PR is in a dire state. I have been living here for 6 years now and am wondering when things will hit rock bottom and then when things will get better. Not sure if I should stay.
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DENNIS NICE WORK DONE,,,KEEP IT UP…WE NEED YOUR HELP…
I feel very sorry for this man…and I’m glad he found help, because it is there for everyone if you know where to look. But I question some of the employment data that is quoted in this story and other articles. No one seems to count all the people here who work off the books. A lot of people work in the states and then come down here, drawing unemployment from up there and work here “under the table.” They are doing quite well. There is a huge underground economy here…which is what they are trying to capture with the IVU. A lot of people, rich people, pay very little taxes. Go into ANY doctor’s office…there is a sign on the wall that says, “sorry, we don’t accept personal checks (ok, I get that), ATH (debit cards), or credit cards…cash only. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Do you think all that cash is reported? Absolutely not! And, apparently, there are no consequences…they ALL do it! It’s things like this that I don’t understand…I think we can get out of this mess, but I don’t think the people who got us into it, can get us out of it.
The United States is only in making Money and that is the only reason they went to Puerto Rico in 1898, Since then things really have not change for the Poor. The Island is in Limbo Land and their is nothing that anybody can do, State Hood or Independence is not the answer. Their is a need to change the Government and put a Government that will not be influence by the American way of life. The people will have to make their own way of life to built the life for their children and once again make them Proud of themselves in the future, One step at a time.
Being that the Island is in the middle of no where will make times much harder to handle and we are going to need help from every Puerto Rican in the States for a helping hand. Puerto Rico is as much of their Isla as any body else in Puerto Rico……..The Dream of Puerto Rico being a state is GONE. If it hasn’t happen since 1890 I say Puerto Rico Despertarte Puerto Rico Despertarte Borinqueno Despertate.
Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
The desperation is indeed growing …. and will continue to grow! This needs to be fixed!! Now ….