Puerto Ricans choose to ship out amid faltering economy

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Workers at the Rosa del Monte moving company have been busy, shipping out some of the 100,000 Puerto Ricans who have left the U.S. territory since 2010.

Neftaly Rodriguez, the company's owner, says many of those leaving are middle-class Puerto Ricans. Jobs disappeared when Congress ended tax breaks for American companies to build there. Then the Great Recession hit. Unemployment stands at over 14 percent.

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Neftaly Rodriguez
CBS News
"If your family isn't OK here, then you have to move on, that's just the way it is," Rodriguez says.

Puerto Rico's government borrowed heavily to stay afloat. Now it owes $70 billion it may not be able to repay. Much of that debt is owned by American investors in the form of Puerto Rican bonds in their retirement accounts.

Asked whether Puerto Rico will go into default, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla says, "The fact is that we are doing what we need to do not to go into default."

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Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla
CBS News
Many investment managers like Puerto Rican bonds because they are tax free and pay high returns. But many American investors have no idea they own the bonds, which have become riskier since credit rating agencies downgraded them to junk status earlier this year.

Garcia Padilla says he doesn't think the downgrade was a fair decision.

"We reformed the three main pension systems in less than a year, we reduced 70 percent of the deficit, so the economy is doing better than in 2012, and the budget is better," he says.

But Neftaly Rodriguez says some people can't wait.

"If they had a choice, they would stay," he says of those choosing to move.

He hopes to soon be bringing people home, instead of moving them away.

  • Anna Werner

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