04 April 2006

Conspiracy or Greed?

Set-up: The first time The Information Soldier met The Jenius, one of the many topics tossed about that table was My theory that the three biggest obstacles in Puerto Rico are El Nuevo Día, Banco Popular and Puerto Rican Cement (also known by its original name, Ponce Cement.)

First, a punchline: El Nuevo Día and Puerto Rican Cement are owned by the Ferré-Rangel family, headed by Antonio Luis Ferré. Guess who’s the largest individual stockholder in Banco Popular? Hint: A. L. F.

Now back to the set-up: Aníbal Freytes bravely trolls the statehood sewer and uncovers a putative conspiracy theory (what do you expect from would-be apers of the American pseudo-intellectual quasi-religion?) involving the Ferré-Rangel family’s efforts to derail the statehood petition effort by hiring lobbyists in D.C. The post—using the cowardly motif of “anonymous internal source”—covers some of My earlier-presented points (see #8.) But I’ll expand upon them here without hiding who I am:

Puerto Rican Cement is the basis for the Ferré-Rangel family fortune. Former Governor Luis Ferré, father of Antonio, headed up the company and when Luis became governor in 1968, he created dozens of public work projects…built with cement. (Luis only had one term; with two he would have bankrupted the government.) For you see, in Puerto Rico, cement is ubiquitous. From roads to houses, no other true alternative exists. Try getting a stronger, lighter, cheaper alternative through the permit process and you will discover how slow cement really is. Yes, cement houses do better against hurricanes, but when a virtual monopoly exists, guess what happens to the retail cost? And what do you think of a company’s best customer being the government for over 35 years, the same government that decides who builds what with what?

El Nuevo Día was the “statehood alternative” newspaper launched in the mid-1970s by the Ferré-Rangel family. Using a combination of technology investments, government contacts and corporate raiding (noticeably managerial talent, because journalistic talent is non-essential to producing a newspaper in Puerto Rico; just check out Caribbean Business), END became the major paper by the late 1980s. Since then, buoyed by 8-figure government ad contracts, an ad/news ratio of 55-45, news reporting of profoundly superficial banality, news editing that rivals monkeys hacking at books with scissors, a Web presence aimed at producing distracting noise and fiscal losses (both aims achieved), an overinflated self-importance in editorial stances and an ongoing campaign to buy up as many regional papers as possible, END is a cancer that throttles true journalism and economic options. And for those who want Orwellian thinking defined, the badly misnamed Center for the New Economy is strongly backed by END…and Banco Popular. (The CNE is a fetid, acephalous joke. You can quote Me on that.)

Banco Popular is not owned by the Ferré-Rangel family, but the 400-pound gorilla on the bank’s Board has a familiar face. Because of Banco Popular, Puerto Rico’s economy resembles Third World autocratic financing more than First World capitalist markets. Bolstered by Section 936 funds (tax-free profits from locally-based U.S. companies), Banco Popular is the primary mover of loans and financial transactions in Puerto Rico: personal loans, commercial loans, mortgages, credit cards…you name it, BP is at or very near the top in every consumer-related category, often owning outright the subsidiaries that offer the service. Billions of government dollars are moved every year through Banco Popular, making it by far the single largest fiscal conduit in Puerto Rico. Bring so much private and public monies together in one institution's hands and you have the makings of a grotesquely bloated leech gnawing at a nation’s jugular. If anything, I may be too soft in that description.

That the Ferré-Rangel family is against statehood for Puerto Rico is not a political issue, but an economic one. They are feeding at the trough and would hate—hate—having the trough removed. So would several others, though they lack the prominence of the Ferré-Rangels.

Conspiracy theory? No. Just plain old greed.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

I have to agree that Caribbean Business is agreat example of advertorial newspaper and END is a good tool for comparing prices of air conditionesrs and things like that (have to make an exception for the always good Mayra Montero Sunday column). Unfortunately, the alternatives, such as they are, are not much better.Trying to pierce our reality from most of our media output is like trying to figure out US's reality by reading only Michael Moore and Ann Coulter.
I get most of my news over the radio. How about you? Any blog/show/magazine worth reading for news?