U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate finance committee, has just appointed the next governor of Puerto Rico…all by himself.
In a stunning announcement, on December 13, 2015, he named Luis Fortuño as chairman of the new “Financial Control Authority” which will govern Puerto Rico.
The news source for this, Noticias 365, is a traditional “joke site.” But joke sites are often used by pollsters and opinion operatives, to launch a disguised trial balloon. So let us be clear about this “Hatch Plan,” because the situation in Puerto Rico is no laughing matter.
On many levels, the Hatch Plan is absolutely insane.
1. Hatch’s Financial Control bill, Senate 2381, states that the chair will be the Secretary of the US Treasury, and all other members will be appointed by the US President. In other words, the POTUS will pick all the members. But now Hatch violates his own bill, and names the chairman himself.
2. Fortuño is anything but “objective.” He was the governor of Puerto Rico just three years ago, and the leader of the PNP Party. If the Financial Control Authority is supposedly apolitical, then Fortuño is an impossible choice.
3. With island-wide executive and prosecutorial powers, Fortuño can use the Financial Control Authority to fire members of the opposition party (PPD) and hire PNP members.
4. Fortuño’s tenure as governor was riddled with massive corruption.
In 2004, Fortuño reportedly hand-delivered illegal campaign contributions to Florida Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who was later thrown out of congress on corruption charges, which included the steering of defense contracts to personal friends.
In 2011, while firing 30,000 government workers to “save money,” Fortuño tried to build a $450 million gasoline pipeline for which the largest contract, worth $9.6 million, went to Ray Engineers PSC.
Ray Engineers had no pipeline construction experience but it was owned by Fortuño’s childhood friend, Pedro Ray Chacón.
In addition, even before the pipeline project was announced, the Fortuño administration awarded about $27 million in private contracts – without public bids – for “preliminary studies.”
At the end of his four-year term, the press reported on a “tsunami” of private contracts that Fortuño handed out from 2009 till 2013. The amount was astounding: over $9.3 billion in private contracts.
This included $2.6 billion for “orientation and training,” $1 billion for “publicity,” $849 million for “consulting fees,” and $414 million for “personal services.” Much of this “tsunami” of private contracts, was handed out to Fortuño’s friends and business associates.
All of this information is readily available to Sen. Hatch. Lots of it was published in his hometown newspaper, the Washington Post. All of it popped up in five seconds, when I googled the words “Luis Fortuño corruption.”
The $50,000 Beauty Makeover
Even Fortuño’s wife got a piece of the action. While her husband laid off 30,000 government employees, cut pensions, closed schools and fired teachers, Luz Eufemia Vela Gutiérrez had a sudden career boom: her yearly income as a lawyer rocketed from $70,000 to $330,000 per year.
In addition, the governor’s wife received “personal services.”
She rode an elegant limousine to and from her private law office every day. The limousine and its driver, were paid by the government of Puerto Rico.
The governor’s wife also charged over $50,000 in personal services: to do her hair, make-up, and nails. These were paid to Bloom Beauty Salon and the Amado Salón de Belleza, by the government of Puerto Rico.
Apparently, an annual income spike from $70,000 to $330,000 was not enough for the Fortuño family. They also forced the people of Puerto Rico to pay over $100,000 for the wife’s personal limousine, and over $50,000 for her hair, nails and make-up.
The beauty makeover of Doña Luz…paid by the people of Puerto Rico
All this money was spent while Fortuño fired workers, froze salaries, rolled back pensions, and even cut Christmas bonuses. By his own admission, “After I suspended collective bargaining for two years and froze all salary increases, we had some pushback. Some people called me a fascist. That’s mostly over, but there will be more attacks from the unions.”
When college students held peaceful rallies and sit-ins to protest three consecutive tuition hikes at the University of Puerto Rico, Fortuño’s police force was dispatched to shoot them with rubber bullets, douse them with pepper spray, club them over the head, and beat them unconscious.
In terms of financial management, the numbers speak for themselves. While Fortuño was governor (2009-2013) his government borrowed over 16 billion dollars…the highest growth of public debt, in the entire history of Puerto Rico.
Over $9.3 billion of this money – more than half – went to Fortuño’s “private contracts” all over the island.
Due to this orgy of borrowing, when Fortuño left office in 2013, the public debt of Puerto Rico was already $70 billion. He left the island in a fiscal shambles, to enjoy a million-dollar partnership at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Steptoe & Johnson.
In short, Luis Fortuño’s government career is steeped in corruption, nepotism, brutality, and financial mismanagement. None of it qualifies him to be the new financial czar of Puerto Rico. Despite all this, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch has “elected” Fortuño to be the next de facto governor of Puerto Rico…all over again.
Get ready for another “tsunami of private contracts” to the friends, business associates, and campaign contributors of Sen. Orrin Hatch and Luis Fortuño.
This is what you get, when you are a colony.
For a history of the War Against All Puerto Ricans, read the book…
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