San Juan – The administration of Gov. Luis Fortuño is facing one of its worst moments since taking office in January 2009, with truckers threatening to strike amid authorities' struggle to overhaul the island's health care system and the Puerto Rico Police Department.
As if all that were not enough, Fortuño also must now cope with the sudden dismissal, after just two days in the post, of the head of state-owned electric utility AEE.
Alberto Escudero, appointed last Friday and backed by Fortuño for his performance managing the Port Authority, was fired by the AEE board for not thoroughly refuting past irregularities in the payment of his household electric bills.
Fortuño thus saw his bet on Escudero end practically before it began, a reversal that doesn't help the governor achieve his objective of reducing high electricity rates, which are causing great discontent among the public as well as within the business community.
The high cost of power is just one item on the list of problems besetting Fortuño and his team, among which is also the strike by bus drivers in San Juan, which since last Friday has left the capital without public transport.
Puerto Rican Labor Secretary Miguel Romero had to intervene in a conflict sparked by the demand of transport workers for a raise of $1.09 per hour.
On top of the bus conflict in the capital comes a strike by truckers scheduled to start on Oct. 17.
Fortuño is also confronting the replacement of Medical Card System as the medical service provider for Mi Salud, Puerto Rico's version of Medicaid, by insurer Triple-S.
The government ended the MCS contract for non-fulfillment of the agreed-upon conditions, accusing the company of piling up a debt of millions of dollars with the doctors who attend to Mi Salud patients.
The situation in the police, which have proven themselves incapable of stemming the current wave of violent crime, much of it drug-related, is another of the challenges Fortuño must include among his immediate priorities.
The new chief of the PRPD, Emilio Diaz, who replaced the controversial Jose Figueroa Sancha in July, has not been able to control the ongoing bloodbath that took the lives of 10 more people in drug trafficking score settling on the weekend.
The media are criticizing Diaz for his scant ability to inspire confidence among the public given that, if the current murder rate continues unchecked, by the end of the year the island will have experienced more than 1,000 violent deaths.
The PRPD is also immersed in a process of restructuring in response to the threat by federal authorities to intervene in the matter after a report was released by the U.S. Justice Department accusing the Puerto Rican police of corruption and widespread civil rights violations.
Other woes plaguing the Fortuño administration include unemployment of more than 16 percent and a spate of corruption scandals in the legislature, several of them involving members of the governor's party.