Hurricane Corruption joined forces with Hurricane María in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. All the advance preparation that a category hurricane 5 requires was lacking in direct proportion to the extreme danger it ultimately unleashed.
It was as if an earthquake had struck the island by surprise, ripping walls from houses, tearing mountains at the seams, downing electricity in all 50+ hospitals hospitals, killing dozens of people by all types of horrific deaths — dragged into currents, drowned in one’s own home.
The government’s inept response was on the same level as the natural disaster.
But María wasn’t the only force to destroy Puerto Rico.
A man-made storm of corruption began in the 1990s, when US Attorney for Puerto Rico Guillermo Gil summarized the jaw-dropping theft of untold millions of public dollars by the Gov. Rosselló Administration this way: “Corruption has a name and it’s called the New Progressive Party.”
The debt was compounded because of illegal multi-billion loans and spending on poorly conceived and developed projects that resulted in the complete abandonment of the island’s infrastructure in order to pay back the loans with interest rates of 75 cents on the dollar. Gil sent many from the administration to prison, but the island’s health, education, public works and electrical grid was already in shambles.
There’s always irony in Greek tragedies. In Puerto Rico’s case, Rosselló was himself a doctor, a beloved pediatric surgeon whose charisma translated into attaining the governorship. But his hubris and magical thinking led him to create a new health care system – to be paid by the then President Clinton’s plan for universal health care. Instead, Clinton’s dream of providing health care to all was shut down by Republicans, but Puerto Rico was already spending the money it was counting on to receive from the U.S.
And so began what years later became a $74 billion debt and a U.S.-appointed seven-member control board.
At the beginning of the man-made disaster, Rosselló had to keep issuing bonds to borrow billions to cover the losses of his bankrupt health care system. The loans also financed the big public works projects, which delight the eyes of voters.
An urban train in metro San Juan cost almost a billion dollars, most of it from the U.S. taxpayers. Even before the hurricane it was losing $50 million a year and only one/third of its seat were occupied by commuters.
Compounding the fiscal troubles was the greed of his friend