The Intercept: The Battle For Paradise

Borinquen – New Neoliberal Tax Haven.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, Puerto Ricans almost immediately began worrying about disaster capitalists swooping in to buy up beleaguered public utilities and damaged beachfront property on the cheap.

Author Naomi Klein visits Puerto Rico six months after Hurricane Maria to see how the government and investors are taking advantage of the disaster — and how teachers, farmers, community organizers and others are working towards their own vision of the future of the island.

The post-Hurricane Maria recovery is seized by one overarching question: Who is Puerto Rico for: islanders or wealthy outsiders?

“Six months into the rolling disaster set off by Maria, dozens of grassroots organizations are coming together to advance precisely this vision: a reimagined Puerto Rico run by its people in their interests. Like Casa Pueblo, in the myriad dysfunctions and injustices the storm so vividly exposed, they see an opportunity to tackle the root causes that turned a weather disaster into a human catastrophe. Among them: the island’s extreme dependence on imported fuel and food; the unpayable and possibly illegal debt that has been used to impose wave after wave of austerity that gravely weakened the island’s defenses; and the 130-year-old colonial relationship with a U.S. government that has always discounted the lives of Puerto Rico’s black and brown people.

“There is also another, very different version of how Puerto Rico should be radically remade after the storm, and it is being aggressively advanced by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in meetings with bankers, real estate developers, cryptocurrency traders, and, of course, the Financial Oversight and Management Board, an unelected seven-member body that exerts ultimate control over Puerto Rico’s economy. For this powerful group, the lesson that Maria carried was not about the perils of economic dependency or austerity in times of climate disruption. The real problem, they argue, was the public ownership of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, which lacked the proper free-market incentives. Rather than transforming that infrastructure so that it truly serves the public interest, they argue for selling it off at fire-sale prices to private players.  …….. Naomi Klein.

First aired on The Intercept.

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