Caguas Cancels Universal Properties Contract, Refers Company to Justice Department for Irregularities

The Municipality of Caguas canceled the contract with Universal Properties Realty Government Services, LLC., after an internal investigation confirmed irregularities in the process of declaring public nuisances and their sale by that company in Caguas, said Mayor William Miranda Torres in an interview with the Center for Investigative Journalism.

Vulnerable and Racialized Communities Are Most Affected by Climate Crisis

“The issue of climate change is intersected by capitalism, colonialism and racism.” Gloriann Sacha Antonetty Lebrón, founder and editor of Revista étnica, said during her participation in the panel “Intersections of poverty, race, gender and climate crisis,” as part of the lineup of activities during the Caribe Fest event that took place May 4-6 in Old San Juan. Antonetty Lebrón sat with Roberto Thomas, coordinator of the Jobos Bay Eco Development Initiative (Idebajo, in Spanish), at the panel moderated by Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) journalists José Encarnación and Cristina del Mar Quiles — also co-founder of the feminist journalism media outlet Todas. They explained that there is an intersection between the climate crisis and poverty, people of color and gender, which is observed, for example, in the displacement events of vulnerable communities in Puerto Rico. Antonetty Lebrón evoked the historical aspect of racism and enslaved people to show the experiences that vulnerable communities have experienced along Puerto Rico’s southern region, the historic population of Calle Loiza in Santurce, -a San Juan neighborhood- as well as residents of the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra. “Racism, trafficking, slavery… what it did was dehumanize us and give reason to exploit us; break our spirit, exploit our lands, force us to work the land and, once we get to enjoy the natural resources a bit, we know that they are resources that are constantly under threat: they plunder them, they displace us,” the editor of Revista Étnica said.

What Did Rosselló’s Unconditional Supporters Say to the FBI?

On July 29, 2019, during the events of the Summer of ‘19, in a cafe in Guaynabo, three FBI agents interviewed Raymond Cruz Hernández, at the time administrator of Ricardo Rosselló Nevares’s political committee. The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish), in alliance with Las Noticias de TeleOnce’s Investigative Unit and Metro Puerto Rico, had access to the report that states what Cruz Hernández said then, according to the FBI, and that had not been revealed until now. Cruz Hernández said that between July 11 and 14, 2019, when he was still working as a special aide in the government house, La Fortaleza, Rosselló Nevares discussed with him the strategy to address the crisis that was emerging after the publication of the Telegram chat. Cruz Hernández said that back then, Chief of Staff Ricardo Llerandi, Secretary of Public Affairs, Anthony Maceira, and Carlos Mercader, who had been director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) until April 2019, were also present. According to Cruz Hernández, Mercader suggested hiring a stateside firm to handle the Telegram chat crisis through the media.

Public Nuisances or Private Business?

The sale of the properties, for which the municipalities got ownership and control through forced expropriation to third parties, is not transparent. The expropriation and purchase agreements that Universal Properties drafts on behalf of the municipality with a “purchasing applicant” are not submitted to the Office of the Comptroller.

Department of Education Ordered to Cancel Contract With Charter School With Shady Record

Education canceled the contract or constitutive letter of what would be the branch of the South Bronx Charter School for International Cultures & the Arts (SBCSICA) in Puerto Rico. The termination of the agreement came after the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) ordered the agency “to show cause regarding the awarding of the contract,” 20 days after the CPI revealed that this charter had accusations from the Office of the Comptroller of New York and that an incorporator of the Neighborhood Association For Inter-Cultural Affairs–Puerto Rico (NAICA-PR), Richard Izquierdo Arroyo, pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from another nonprofit organization he chaired in New York.