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Puerto Rico's new government charges recovery course

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By The Associated Press
Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 9:20 p.m.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A new governor took office on Wednesday in Puerto Rico, marking an ideological shift in a U.S. territory struggling to revive its economy and reduce violent crime.

Alejandro Garcia Padilla was sworn in on a stage overlooking the Atlantic Ocean outside the Capitol building in San Juan amid the cheers of thousands of supporters from his party, which opposes statehood. Garcia is a 41-year-old attorney and former local senator who narrowly defeated pro-statehood Gov. Luis Fortuno in November, thanks in part to support from labor unions angered when Fortuno laid off more than 20,000 government workers to help close a budget deficit.

Garcia said one of his priorities is to create jobs on an island where unemployment hovers above 13 percent, higher than in any U.S. state.

Garcia said Puerto Rico is facing a public debt higher than previously thought, as well as alarming crime statistics and a downgrading of the island's credit. He said the island needs to strengthen its industrial and commercial sectors, boost agricultural production and graduation rates and improve its education and justice system.

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