SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Angel González, a retired schoolteacher facing a 10 percent cut to his pension, is beginning to wonder whether his three-person household will have to cut back to one cellphone and take turns using it.
Santiago Domenech, a general contractor with $2 million of his savings tied up in bonds Puerto Rico just defaulted on, once had 450 employees. Now he has eight. His father-in-law, Alfredo Torres, owns Puerto Rico’s oldest bookstore, but it has been going downhill for two years.
“The government is bankrupt,” said Bernardo Rivera, 75, a private bus driver who sometimes earns only $40 all day. “Everyone is bankrupt. There is nothing left. People who do not have jobs do not take the bus to work.”
These are some of the voices of Puerto Rico’s business owners, retirees and public servants who are caught in the middle — they would say the bottom — of the largest local government insolvency in United States history. Faced with a $123 billion debt it cannot pay, Puerto Rico filed for a kind of bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, a move that sent shivers down the spines of everyone from bond holders fearful of staggering losses to street sweepers and public employees whose already meager paychecks are likely to dwindle.