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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Beatrice Rangel: How Puerto Rico Proves Halfways Are Treacherous
Former Venezuela Presidential Chief of Staff Beatrice Rangel

By Beatrice E. Rangel

The deadly fingerprints of Irma and Maria will mark the Caribbean for decades to come.

Cities and villages completely wiped away. Distraught human beings parading through the debris like zombies. Darkness and dryness all over. Unfolding famine that threatens to erase all traces of civilization as looting and killing become tools for survival.

And these events are unfolding under the limelight of the world TV networks in a US territory!!

Yes, to our chagrin Puerto Rico is the global showcase for the U.S. failure to properly manage one of its territories nourishing malformations that have crippled the island and that spring from lack of definition.

While Texas and Florida are already on their ways to recovery a month and three weeks after the visits of Harvey and Irma. A week after confronting Maria, Puerto Rico is in a state of spiraling deterioration that could soon erupt into bloodshed.

To be sure, the island territory was the worst prepared to face a natural calamity.

Its state-owned power utility has been experiencing sustained decay for at least two decades. As its management became politicized and its labor benefits good in relative terms, the company became prey of political patronage and union peddling.

Inefficiency and tolerated illegal stealing of electricity took a toll on its profits. As profits shrank equipment renewal was postponed. Today the company largely operates with transmission equipment from the 1980s. And it lacks an appropriate maintenance budget. Worse, the utility is debt ridden to the tune of US$20 billion.

From the institutional viewpoint Puerto Rico is better defined by what it is not instead of what it is.

It is not a state. It is not a country. It is a U.S. territory that lacks a firm institutional network, as its institutions are a patchwork made of what was left by the Spaniards and what is allowed by the Americans.

As a result, Puerto Rico lacks the institutional resources to file for bankruptcy, structure its debt or even develop a maritime hub to house growing transpacific trade coming to the Americas.

Indeed, Puerto Rico must punish its population an overprice of 30% for all its imports on account of the Jones Act which bans any foreign vessel from entering a second U.S. port. Given that Baltimore, New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Miami usually are the port of entry, Puerto Rico gets its trade after it is transshipped to a U.S. vessel run by a U.S. crew.

From the economic view point, the maze of public policies enacted in Puerto Rico have the dubious record of competing with the Dominican Republic in fostering corruption. This is the net result from the intervention of layers of institutions which include the U.S. Congress, an Oversight Board (whose members evidently spend their lives tanning at the beaches), and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Accordingly, a simple financial exercise such as preparing a budget turns into a jamboree where diverse agents perform diverse tasks without a common script. In the process, accountability is lost in space thereby promoting impunity and lack of reality.

Worse, convoluted public policies have created a perfect environment for vulture funds. These own the lion's share of the debt. The vulture funds appear to be using front groups to influence congressional debate on measures that could relieve Puerto Rican debt at the creditors' expense.

60 Plus, a conservative seniors' group that is funded by a few wealthy anonymous donors and played a lead role in opposing the Affordable Care Act, set up a group called "Main Street Bondholders" to fight efforts in Congress to provide Puerto Rico with even the most modest bankruptcy powers.

Finally, there is education. As the crisis deepens, more schools are closed forcing desperate low-income parents to register their children in overcrowded schools where ill-trained and worse compensated teachers try to teach a program that would demand a Harvard PHD to be suitably executed. Schools are thus turning into massive workshops of ill-educated generations that are deprived from reaching enriching and stimulating jobs.

And this tragedy arises from a history where neither the Puerto Rican leaders nor the Americans have had the courage to choose a path to development that resembles that of the U.S. because such a decision is fraught with conflict big and small. Dodging conflict for centuries has produced a crippled Quasimodo in the Caribbean where "all hope is lost" as Dante Alighieri would put it.


Beatrice Rangel is President & CEO of the AMLA Consulting Group, which provides growth and partnership opportunities in US and Hispanic markets. AMLA identifies the best potential partner for businesses which are eager to exploit the growing buying power of the US Hispanic market and for US Corporations seeking to find investment partners in Latin America. Previously, she was Chief of Staff for Venezuela President Carlos Andres Perez as well as Chief Strategist for the Cisneros Group of Companies.

For her work throughout Latin America, Rangel has been honored with the Order of Merit of May from Argentina, the Condor of the Andes Order from Bolivia, the Bernardo O'Higgins Order by Chile, the Order of Boyaca from Colombia, and the National Order of Jose Matías Delgado from El Salvador.

You can follow her on twitter @BEPA2009 or contact her directly at BRangel@amlaconsulting.com.



Also by Beatrice Rangel in her Latin America from 35,000 Feet series

Beatrice Rangel: Rio -- Demystifying the Olympic Games

Beatrice Rangel: The Luddite Syndrome in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Venezuela's Unexpected Transition

Beatrice Rangel: We Now Have a Wider Canal But Has Our Wisdom Expanded???

Beatrice Rangel: From Brexit to Tesla, Progress is Made by Leaders!!!

Beatrice Rangel: As the World Goes Latin, Latin America Gets Logical

Beatrice Rangel: On the Difficulties of Fighting Barbarism in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: The Impending Age of Housekeeping!!!!

Beatrice Rangel: What Happened to All Those Rosy Forecasts for Latin America?

Beatrice Rangel: On Dialogue and the Rules of Geopolitics in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: The Ides of Wisdom in Venezuela

Beatrice Rangel: On the Discreet Charm of Populism

Beatrice Rangel: Three Ladies in Distress

Beatrice Rangel: Trump, Lula, Kirchner and the Last Tupi-Guaranis

Beatrice Rangel: Time for Departures in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: A Contrarian View on the Panama Papers

Beatrice Rangel: Brazil's Lady in Her Labyrinth

Beatrice Rangel: Back to a Divided Home!!!

Beatrice Rangel: A Historical Take-Off in the Americas??

Beatrice Rangel: A Skipped Journey, a Reaffirmation and a Clearing of Path in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: The Demise of Civility in the Americas!!

Beatrice Rangel: The Americas from Boutros Boutros-Ghali to Ban Ki Moon

Beatrice Rangel: The Pope's Difficult Stopover in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Farewell to The “Diplomacy of Reason”

Beatrice Rangel: 2 Diseases in Latin America -- Different Prescriptions, Very Different Outcomes

Beatrice Rangel: On Health Alerts and the Long Arm of Justice in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: When Crime Meets Glory

Beatrice Rangel: Playing Hansel and Gretel in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Good News/Bad News Starts The Monkey Leap Year

Beatrice Rangel: The Gifts of Christmas!!!!!!

Beatrice Rangel: Crying Wolf in Venezuela

Beatrice Rangel: A 21st Century Tale of Two Cities

Beatrice Rangel: Are the Americas Ready for President Trump?

Beatrice Rangel: On Predictions of War & Global Confusion

Beatrice Rangel: Paris and the Return of Fear

Beatrice Rangel: Marijuana & Latin America's Next Trade Corridor

Beatrice Rangel: Of Burning Airplanes & Argentinean Tsunamis

Beatrice Rangel: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the Americas!!

Beatrice Rangel: Buena Vista's Magic Covers the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Pride and Perjury in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Trompe L’oeils Proliferate in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: The Economic Consequences of Peace in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: Colombia, the FARC & the Makings of Gangland in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: When Extreme Weather Meets Extreme Politics Calamities are Bound to Happen

Beatrice Rangel: When Ladies Hit 70

Beatrice Rangel: About Uninformed Elites and Gullible Leaders

Beatrice Rangel: On US-Engineered Soft Landings in Cuba and Venezuela

Beatrice Rangel: On the Many Ways Cecil Matters

Beatrice Rangel: Blue Moons Lead to Extraordinary Happenings in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: On Why Embassy Openings Do Not Necessarily Herald Different Policies

Beatrice Rangel: When Jupiter meets Venus

Beatrice Rangel: When Markets and Manners Crash

Beatrice Rangel: From Grexit to Exit, Contagion is in the Air

Beatrice Rangel: An Infuriated God & An Environmental Crusader Mark the Summer Solstice

Beatrice Rangel: Between Ionesco & the Falklands Syndrome

Beatrice Rangel: The Ugly Americas

Beatrice Rangel: How FIFA Corrupted the Beautiful Game in the Americas and World

Beatrice Rangel: Could the US RICO Act Be Applied to Latin America?

Beatrice Rangel: On the Discreet Charm of Commodities for Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: The End of the Chinese Free Lunch in the Americas!!

Beatrice Rangel: The Crooked Twig of Democracy in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Of a White Knight for Three Latin American Ladies in Distress

Beatrice Rangel: Withdrawal Symptoms?

Beatrice Rangel: The Un-Mannered Summit

Beatrice Rangel: Easter Miracles in Latin America and the World

Beatrice Rangel: Two Islands, Two Legacies & One Challenge - Modernity

Beatrice Rangel: Killing Me Softly -- the Obama Administration’s Legacy in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: Of Upcoming Dynasties and Exhausted Ideas in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: Of Thunderous Silences, Quiet Noises and Flash Backs in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: Latin America's Dangerous Exports to Europe & the Demise of an Old Fox

Beatrice Rangel: Of Sweet Deals, Sugar Daddies, Direct Mail & Obama’s Care

Beatrice Rangel: Of Latin American Singing Birds, Femme Fatales & Empty Shelves

Beatrice Rangel: When Flying Dragons & Rage Infusions Turn Against Their Latin American Masters

Beatrice Rangel: Holy Haberdashery!!! Is Fire Building Under the Surface in the Americas??

Beatrice Rangel: 2015 -- A Year for Balance in the Americas???

Beatrice Rangel: Pope Francis Looks at the Americas In His Christmas Remarks

Beatrice Rangel: The Paint Brush Hanging from the Wall in Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: A Future for the Americas??

Beatrice Rangel: Going Forward, Going Backward -- It's the Americas!!

Beatrice Rangel: An Eerily Familiar Week in the Americas

Beatrice Rangel: Tale of Two Walls

Beatrice Rangel: Across the Americas, We the PEOPLE

Beatrice Rangel: Across Latin America, The Populist Beat Goes On!!

Beatrice Rangel: Oh My, The Patron of the Eternal Feminine Has Left Us!!!

Beatrice Rangel: Communism from China to Cuba Finds Corruption!!!

Beatrice Rangel: From Rio to Hong Kong Discontent Taps the East to Find a New Way

Beatrice Rangel: Will Latin America Miss the Broadband Development Target?

Beatrice Rangel: Kissinger’s World Order and Latin America

Beatrice Rangel: The Third Attempt -- Will Modernity Prevail in Latin America?

Rangel: While US is Away, Latin America Rethinks Development Paths

Rangel: In the Midst of Riots, a Star is Born in Brazil

Rangel: In Mexico Cinderella Gets to the Ball while Colombia Gets a Chance at Peace


 

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