Franklin D. Lopez
Journalist, Author, entrepreneur and political prisoner
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“Many people, especially the ignorant, want to punish you for telling the truth, being right, for being you. Never apologize for being correct, or being years ahead of your time. If you’re right and you know it, your right to speak. Even if you are a minority of one, truth is still the truth. “- Mahatma Gandhi
If something has revealed Puerto Rico’s public debt and economic crisis, is the high level of corruption and pillage of public funds. It began as a viral disease, in one cell and extending to the total body killing it. The crisis has also revealed the expenditures of tens of billions of dollars in ineffective and failed mega public projects, with no strategic planning, done in order for the politicians to extort moneys, enriched themselves and “raise funds for the political party.” For example two failed train systems.
The crisis has also revealed what we all know as a key element of modern politics, the high level of lies and deceptions, hollow ideas of faces intended to illuminate a path but taking the people into the darkness of corruption. They present great plans and projects without the knowledge of how deep the financial condition of the territory really is. For the past two years the Puerto Rico government has failed to produce audited financial statements.
Corruption has spread from the territorial central government, municipalities, legislature and the administration of justice, from prosecutors, judges and lawyers promoted by greed and unjust enrichment. Some years ago, returning from a trip to Washington, DC, while walking through the finish Dulles Airport, I saw a sweatshirt with a message that includes what I’m trying to communicate. Hoodie I bought a gift for a young family friend who had just passed the bar examination of attorney. The sweatshirt was printed the following: “Good lawyers know the law. Great lawyers know the judge. “
During the past week it was published in the local press that Puerto Rican labor leader Dennis Rivera had moved to Puerto Rico a foundation under the name “Moving America Forward Foundation” which was located in Albuquerque, New Mexico and under the direction of former Governor Bill Richardson . The story was profiled in the New York Post on November 22, 2015 (Link: http://nypost.com/2015/11/22/ny-labor-chief-sent-1-1m-to-sham-charities- in-new-mexico / ). The newspaper story alleges that the nonprofit organization was nothing more than a front where it allegedly squandered $ 1.1 million donations from unions and private sectors under the belief that it was for the public good.
The recent story was published by a conservative website under the name This story reveals that the foundation in New Mexico was moved to the island and renamed “Economic Society Friends of the Country” (www “The Washington Free Beacon.”. http: / /economicsocietypr.org ). Its board of directors is chaired by the President of Banco Popular Richard Carrion, and its directors include renowned personalities, all identified with colonialism and immobility. They include Dennis Rivera, Miguel A. Ferrer (ex-chairman of UBS), Guillermo Martinez, Joaquin Bacardi, billionaire Nicholas Prouty. Its executive and it’s sole employee director Antonio “Tony” García-Padilla, brother of Governor Alejandro García Padilla who receives $ 70,000.00 a year salary while being a full law professor at the University of Puerto Rico.
When the news became public, most of the press, with the exception of El Vocero newspaper and NotiCel, buried it under the carpet of oblivion. Dennis Rivera chose to “shoot the messenger” of “The Washington Free Beacon” accusing the web site of being a right-wing entity without credibility. The opposition New Progressive Party, in spite of been requested in the social networks to demand an investigation by the Federal government or the Comptroller or the Office of Government Ethics, chose to focus on their electioneering campaigns and the search for the elixir of administering the colony, which has made many of them multi-millionaires with total and absolute impunity.
Government corruption is a twin brother of prostitution. In prostitution you sell your body and in corruption your conscience. Both were born on the same day. In 1979, as a member of the Panel for the appointment of judges of the First Circuit of Appeals in Boston, one of its members was the executive director of the Commission on Conflict of Interest. I asked her for a copy of the law and tried to promote in Puerto Rico during 1979 without getting traction or any interest or the Governor or the Legislature.
In 1997 whe I was an advisor of the President of the Senate, Charlie Rodriguez I recommended two measures to try to clean up the legislature and electoral processes fundraising for political campaigns. The first measure promoted and established the first and only Public Bidding Board with representation of the three colonial parties in any branch of the territorial government in its history. The second, recommended a Citizens Panel promoted reforms in the electoral processes to identify donors, especially politicians warn investors. The Commission made many recommendations but adopted a system that another measure that sought to reform the electoral system.
Today, Puerto Rico is facing the worst crisis in its history. The government of the possession of the United States is bankrupt and it’s show case destroyed. Seventy of the 78 municipalities are bankrupt. The Retirement System will be insolvent in two years and the present government PPD failed to comply with its obligation to contribute to it. The government is not paying suppliers and t has accumulated a debt of one thousand eight hundred million. The public health system is also in literal bankruptcy and may collapse at any time.
But the most aggravating of all this gloomy picture is the total and absolute impunity with the sharks of corruption. The judicial system process the sardines and the sharks , the real mega thieves, with their strength escape the net of justice. The Federal Justice Department in Puerto Rico, through the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office, do not have the resources needed to implement a comprehensive plan and process thousands of cases of government corruption that is affecting, both the government and major private institutions, In Puerto Rico. It has given priority to drug trafficking and organized crime continues.
After the failures in the cases against former Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila and former Sen. Hector Martinez, Federal Prosecutor the U.S. Justice Department, again because of lack of financial resources, has taken a stance to focus more on the sardines and sharks go unpunished for corruption. The problem with this judicial public policy is that the people have been losing faith in their elected officials, the government in general and even justice.
There are dozens of cases that have been referred to federal authorities here and in Washington, DC that have been placed in a file of total oblivion. Cases like that of a metropolitan municipality Mayor, who used proxies or surrogates to acquire property and businesses, with money received from extortion and money laundering. On this, there is even a story of a Metropolitan mayor who transferred more than $ 2 million dollars worth of property to public employees who acted as his front. The employee died and the Mayor went to reclaim the employee’s widow to return the property and businesses and she replied, “please … sue me.” The mayor could not for obvious reasons.
The sheer volume of public debt, which includes $ 72 billion and pillage in the Retirement Fund, which has a structural deficit of more than $ 37 billion, is the product of government corruption. The bankruptcy of PREPA and the AAA is also the result of government looting. Corruption in the private sector is also considerable. Sales of marketable instruments based on false financial statements are punished by banks with civil penalties while sardines steal from a bank or credit union and the system applies the full weight of the law. It is common knowledge that under the administration of George W. Bush over $ 5 trillion of investments and savings of workers managed by investment bankers were lost in the 2008 financial meltdown. The system rescued the banks at a cost of a trillion-dollar and not one of those bankers until today has been processed. Why?
Creatures of corruption and monumental public debt are well known. Transactions like these were not investigated and or were partially and guess who was prosecuted? The sardines. Let’s see:
1- The Sale of Puerto Rico International Telephone Company to Telefónica of Spain.
2- Financing and assumed responsibility for the debt of the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge at a cost of $ 144 million from the private developer
3- Multiple contracts of San Juan’s Metro system built by Siemens, a company with an abysmal history of government corruption globally
4- The Light Rail Bayamon to Toa Baja that was supposed to cost $ 53 million ended up costing $ 92 million and is a solemn failure.
5- The Puerto Rico Sevilla Pavilion
6-The super natural gas pipeline at a cost of tens of millions that was never built.
7-The Windmill at Kennedy Avenue does not work and it was obsolete equipment donated by a Spanish Gamesa to a Spaniard hidden in Puerto Rico for corruption in Spain.
8- The One Thousand 200 million spent on the Special Communities projects that drained capital of the Government Development Bank
9- Purchases of land, properties, and leasing buildings for government offices, from the private sector by the executive, legislative, and judiciary. The most recent scandal was the purchase of land for the Northern Corridor project paying tens of millions of dollars.
10- The Port of the Americas that cost more than $ 300 million in Ponce and abandoned and without being used by a simple small pleasure boat!
11- Change Orders in the tens of millions at the Puerto Rico Coliseum in 2001.
None of the above 11 cases have been investigated deeply. Various investigations are announced and ended in dead files and archived into oblivion. To date, no elected officials or candidates for elective office by the NPP have made a referral of the case of the brother of the Governor and Dennis Rivera to the Office of Government Ethics.
The negativity of Congress to assign a federal cent to help the U.S. citizens in the territory with its public debt crisis is based on the $ 20-billions that have gone into the pockets of politicians, politicians, investors, traders, and businessmen with impunity while tens of thousands lost their homes and have lost faith in their homeland and take their bags and leave on the first flight of Jet Blue to the 50 states of the union. Many elected officials when they leave public service accumulate massive wealth and properties, the origin of extortion and corruption and nothing happens or occurs. Impunity prevails for that is why corruption has spread like a plague.
If given the economic resources and guidance, federal investigative and judicial agencies can pursue the trail and footprints of money (follow the money) stolen by public officials and begin a process of ending corruption restoring confidence of the people in our democratic institutions and private sectors. This should be a Washington priority.
Corruption is immortal and it will continue as the ambitions of man controls the minds and consciences of human beings. We live in a country whose government approves thousands of laws and amendments to laws that are never enforced or implemented. That impunity and passivity, alienation, and ignorance of the people open the way for mediocrity to aspire, run, dominate and control the elective positions to loot what remains of government financial resources.
The acceptance of corruption as part of our everyday environment and the passivity of the people against its impunity is shameful, but not surprising because it is the product of 523 years of colonialism. How often have I heard in coffee shops and public places people expressing about this crisis of corruption and impunity the following, “I don’t care of the governor steals as long as I get a piece” or “Let’s elect the one that steal the least” Many people in the political party that I support chastise me every time that I promote measures to fight public corruption!
The weight of public corruption is sinking the People of Puerto Rico. The recent statement of the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell expressing his unwillingness to assign “one cent of federal funds to deal with the crisis” is emblematic of Washington.s distrust of Puerto Rican elected officials. Harder times will come to the Isnald’s residents/ Get ready, wake up, defend your dignity and strive to resolve not only the serious problem of corruption around the social environment of Puerto Rico but also the fundamental problem is the status.
In closing, I like to share a quote from the writer Ernest Hemingway of his book, “Farewell to Arms”
“The world breaks everyone and then some are strong at the broken parts. But those who can not break it kills. Kill the good, the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these, you can be sure that they will kill you too, but will not in a hurry! “
In colonialism the Metropolis controls more the people by their ignorance and passivity than with the force of violence or the content – If we do not act now … when will we do?
Writer’s note: This column was distributed among members of the Commissions of the Legal of Congress and the Senate and executive staff of the White House in an English translation.