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.
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?