Monday, January 15, 2018

Looks like Puerto Rico's endemic corruption has struck again

For decades, it's been alleged that Puerto Rico's government is at least as corrupt as any other third world nation, if not more so - despite its US government oversight.  For example, in 2001 corruption scandals led to indictments against about 40 officials.  In 2010, 89 Puerto Rican law enforcement officers were among about 130 people charged.  Global Security claims that the seemingly endemic corruption is largely rooted in the drug trade, as drugs from South America are smuggled into the USA via Puerto Rico.

Last year, famed investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson produced this report on corruption in the island, noting that even before Hurricane Maria's devastation, the economy there was in tatters.

Last week came news that the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority might be involved in a new corruption scandal.

On Saturday, a day after becoming aware of a massive store of rebuilding materials being held by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the U.S. federal government — the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with their security detail — entered a Palo Seco warehouse owned by the public utility to claim and distribute the equipment, according to a spokesperson for the Corps.

Rumors of a tense standoff had been circulating on the island, but the encounter was confirmed to The Intercept in a statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Asked if the federal officers were armed when they entered the warehouse, USACE spokesperson Luciano Vera said they were indeed accompanied by security detail and quickly began distributing the material after seizing it.

. . .

“Warehouse 5” — the one which USACE and FEMA entered Saturday — “falls under the control of the [PREPA] transmission division and has lacked transparency in inventory and accountability,” the email from Vera continued. Carlos Torres, appointed by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to oversee power restoration, was on site as well.

“Due to the size of the warehouse,” Vera said, accounting for everything contained therein is still underway days later. Among the materials recovered so far are “2,875 pieces of critical material to contractors” along with the sleeves of full-tension steel, a component of Puerto Rican electrical infrastructure required to erect new power lines. PREPA did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment, though in a statement to the Associated Press, it rejected allegations that it had failed to distribute the warehouse’s contents. The AP only reported that “officials over the weekend also discovered some needed materials in a previously overlooked warehouse owned by Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority.” How they discovered them and how they were obtained is a story that has not been fully told.

There's more at the link.

The island's governor has 'ordered an investigation' into the discovery of the materials.  However, one possible reason for their existence being hidden has been advanced by a former Puerto Rican Secretary of State.

Kenneth McClintock, Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 and president of the island’s senate from 2005 to 2008 told Mother Jones on Wednesday that PREPA, the US Attorney’s Office, and the FBI should investigate the incident as evidence of corruption.

“If the US Attorney and the FBI are not currently investigating corruption at PREPA, which has been going on for 70 years, this incident—with such a huge amount of materials has been kept away from plain view for so long—would be a good point to begin,” he said. “This was not a mistake. This is corruption.”

. . .

“What they’ve been doing is creating a huge hidden cache of the materials that are needed to do repairs. And then for lack of access to repair materials, the outside crews from the states have been waiting at the hotels with their trucks parked,” McClintock says, adding that the power authority’s local employees and their unions do not want outside crews “doing the job that they can do with triple-pay overtime.”

Again, more at the link.

President Trump allegedly referred to certain Third World nations in uncomplimentary terms last week.  I wonder whether he might not wish to employ the same language about Puerto Rico, and its clearly inept, irresponsible, incompetent government?  Seems to me we need to 'clean house' there even before we worry about immigrants from elsewhere.  I wonder how many Puerto Ricans currently moving to the mainland will bring with them a culture tolerant of such corruption?  Will we see it spread to Florida and elsewhere?

I'm not being racist in the least - I'm being realistic.  The color of the skin of those involved, or the language they speak, is irrelevant.  Once you allow corruption to become so entrenched in society - any society - it's almost impossible to uproot it.  As evidence, I submit New York City, Chicago, Detroit, or New Orleans.  Examples there are so immense in number and in scope that there's really no reason to say more, is there?



B said...

Well said.

As I said when I posted about this last Friday, The problems with Puerto Rico are the people and the Government. Otherwise, it is a paradise....

Nylon12 said...

People need to be charged, tried, convicted and hung. Don't care if it deters others, it will keep them from doing it again.

Paul said...

Not likely. Power and money are the draws and they will always attract ones who can't get them any other way.

McChuck said...

Remove citizenship from the territories. No right to free movement here, no right to instantly vote by moving to a hotel in Miami or New York. "I want to be an American. I want to live in America."

Aesop said...

There's nothing wrong with Puerto Rico that wouldn't be solved by halting all emigration from there into the US, repatriating all residents in the U.S. back there, and granting them full and unconditional independence this coming July 4th.

nono said...

I just wonder who they were gonna sell all that material to. Would not surprise me if more than enough recovery material had already been shipped to Puerto Rico to completely rebuild the electric grid, but had been "sold off the island".

Chuck Pergiel said...

The illegal drug trade fosters corruption. Eliminating the drug trade has been the goal of the War On Drugs for the last 50 years. Near as I can tell it hasn't had any effect, other than to keep a large number of people occupied with violent confrontations.

Removing the prohibitions on drugs could help cut down on corruption, but it will never happen because too many people are making too much money off of that trade. I suspect some of that money is going to promote the War On Drugs through political contributions, or am I being too cynical?

Anonymous said...


You're quite right about how tough it is to uproot it. In Spain, the Economic crimes unit of the Guardia civil directly implicated the Spanish prime minister with benefiting from the illegal party financing and the parallel payments (caja B).And yet he's still in power.
And there've been even more mind blowing scandals where a Guardia civil agent and some businessmen were actively money laundering for the son of the Equatorial Guinea's president and created a parallel spy organization that had its hooks in the public bureaucracy.
Of course, this deep seated corruption is yet again the reason that Catalans voted to separate again. The Catalans are no saints but the depths and level is so intense that they want to cut off the poison.


Timbo said...

Just yesterday the (now extinct but their members live on) CIU political party was fined and a couple of mid level corruptocrats handed jail sentences in one of the many cases of institutionalized corruption in Cataluña. The capo of the crime family, the "molt honorable" Jordi Pujol has not yet been charged, but it's only a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

The large majority of people in Puerto Rico are white people... nothing racist about referring to Puerto Rico and the 3rd world $%^hole that it is.

Paul, Dammit! said...

Puerto Rico is an American territory, but their culture is anything but American, and it is foolish to believe otherwise. Caribbean culture, which IS present there, relies on graft and gray and black marketing to overcome disorganization and endemic self-interest at others' expense.