Economic development scarce for P.R.’s micro and small entrepreneurs

“To avoid a headache,” Wilfredo Cubero hired a professional authorized by the Permit Management Office (PMO) to get the Use Permit for his business Piu Bello Gelato, located in Plaza del Sol mall in Bayamón. His biggest setback at the moment is that he still does not have the sanitary license required for all food businesses, because a Health Department inspector has yet to visit his place to do the mandatory inspection. Cubero submitted the application for the sanitary license on Oct. 23, 2018 and it was not until five months later that a Health Department inspector reached out to him for the inspection. At that time, the inspection could not be done because the area where the business is located in the shopping center was closed for remodeling.

Out-of-control Water Extraction in Haiti

While the State does nothing to solve access to drinking water for more than 1.5 million Haitians in the metropolitan area of ​​Port-au-Prince, private companies extract water from the main aquifer that supplies the region free of charge and uncontrollably. It’s water that does not pass through quality controls and is then sold to citizens at an inaccessible cost to many. This main source of drinking water, Cul-de-Sac, is contaminated. In Haiti, misgovernment, the lack of economic resources and abuse by companies come together in a fatal combination for a large part of the population that — for the most part lacks sanitary services or drinking water — becomes part of the vicious cycle of exploitation of the resource at a time when climate change extends the drought periods in the Caribbean, a joint investigation by the Center for Investigative Journalism and Le Nouvelliste revealed. The number of those lacking access to drinking water in the entire country is almost 6 million, which represents more than 40% of the population.

Poor Management of Water Sources Aggravates Impact of the Drought in the Caribbean

In the region, the smaller islands have limited freshwater natural resources and some use expensive and polluting desalination plants. Although the larger islands have abundant rivers and aquifers, their reserves have diminished. In addition, the rise of the sea level, associated with climate change, exposes aquifers to contamination due to saline intrusion.

Damage by coal ash to the southern aquifer cannot be undone

The most recent groundwater analysis shows that in little over a year, the chemicals detected in the aquifer under the mountain of coal ash at AES plant in Guayama — such as selenium, lithium and molybdenum — exceeded the maximum allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by four to 14 times. The consumption of these three elements has been associated with skin inflammation, acute pain, vomiting, weakness, liver dysfunction and death from poisoning, according to the U.S. Department of Health’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. During the same period the concentration of heavy metals such as arsenic, multiplied by five   almost reaching the level of toxicity established by the EPA, while others, such as lead and cadmium, also showed significant increases. Considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the 10 most alarming chemical threats to public health, arsenic in water has carcinogenic effects, according to the WHO International Center for Cancer Research. Even in low doses, it can cause irritation to the stomach, lungs and intestines, and in the long term, growth problems, neurotoxicity, diabetes and pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.

‘Low Numbers’ From Puerto Rico Gov’t Pushed Harvard Group to Continue Hurricane María Death Toll Study

Four days before the results of the “Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria” study were published, Harvard University reported its findings to the government of Puerto Rico, but received no acknowledgment of receipt. It was not until The New York Times contacted the government to talk about the results that La Fortaleza requested a meeting with the study’s researchers, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor Rafael Irizarry Quintero told the the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI). “They only responded when the New York Times called them. They responded and asked to speak with us…” said the professor, who work on the study’s statistical analysis.

Puerto Rico with a Big “Menu” for Opportunity Zones

According to Manuel López-Zambrana, Puerto Rico has turned into a restaurant that should have a menu to please investors coming from the United States. He is a lawyer with the DLA Piper law firm and as a government adviser, he worked on the local legislation for the Opportunity Zones, a federal program that reduced to 20 percent the federal tax rate for funds used to invest in low income communities in Puerto Rico. The previous tax rate was 37.5 percent. “The most important thing to have in mind is that Puerto Rico, as an Opportunity Zone area, is competing with other states… We have to be well aware that if we want to bring that capital here, they will be looking at a menu of other options…, they can choose from a well-done filet mignon, a lobster, and we have to come up with something that is better,” said López-Zambrana during a forum at the University of Puerto Rico Law School.

Puerto Rico Gov’t Lacks Plan to Integrate Communities into ‘Opportunity Zones’

Modesta Irizarry did not know that her town, Loíza, a municipality on the north coast of Puerto Rico, was designated as an “opportunity zone.” In the neighborhood of Salud, Mayagüez, on the island’s west side, Orlando Serrano had not heard that his community is also under the same category. So is almost 98% of Puerto Rico. Opportunity zones form part of President Donald Trump’s tax reform, which reduces from 37.5% to 20% the tax rate paid by funds that invest in these “low-income communities.” Proposed legislation at the local level that enables the federal program on the island also exempts investors from Puerto Rico and abroad from paying construction excise taxes, while reducing 50% of municipal license fees during a 15 year period. “We are trying right now to understand the opportunity zones,” said Roberto Thomas, a community organizer from Bahía de Jobos, in southern Puerto Rico, between the towns of Salinas and Guayama. Community leaders Modesta Irizarry, Orlando Serrano and Roberto Thomas told the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI) that their communities have not had access to information about opportunity zones.