Saturday, March 06, 2010

Behind The News: Bacardigate - concerns about Puerto Rico's lack of transparency over secret rum subsidies

Bacardigate! This article should be read in conjuntion with Bacardi, Campaign of Misinformation and plot to destroy economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands published Feb 24, 2010

Less than 12 hours remain for Puerto Rico's Governor Luis Fortuno to answer the call from the nation's African-American business community to openly disclose all direct and indirect payments to Puerto Rico's rum industry. The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC), amid concerns about Puerto Rico's lack of transparency regarding the territory's rum subsidies, last week wrote Gov. Fortuno asking him to "open the books" by releasing all contracts with rum makers by March 5, 2010.

"Today's the day for Puerto Rico to come clean on all direct and indirect payments to its rum companies. It is important that Puerto Rico reveal its rum contracts, including with Bacardi, the largest rum maker in the world," said NBCC President and CEO Harry C. Alford. "By failing to be transparent, Puerto Rico's government is creating an uneven playing field in the rum industry. The Puerto Rican people should be concerned about Governor Fortuno's lack of commitment to good, clean government."

Puerto Rico has launched an aggressive lobbying campaign to dictate how the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) uses its rum excise tax cover-over revenue, which is generated by the territory's rum production. Puerto Rico's attacks have come even as its own use of revenue is veiled in secrecy, with rumors of hidden payments to Puerto Rican rum makers outside the rum cover-over economic development program.

"Without transparency, businesses and governments fail because people can't trust them," Alford said. "The cloud of secrecy remains over Puerto Rico, and their vicious attacks against the U.S. Virgin Islands and its economy won't deflect criticisms of Puerto Rico or answer our concerns."

Last week, Alford issued a letter to Gov. Fortuno requesting that by March 5, 2010, Puerto Rico match the U.S. Virgin Islands' pledge to transparency by releasing details of Puerto Rico's commitments with its rum producers. The U.S. Virgin Islands posts full information on its rum investments on Governor John deJongh's Web site,

"Since asking Governor Fortuno for transparency, we have heard nothing from Puerto Rico's leaders," continued Alford. "Puerto Rico's stall tactics won't stop us from continuing to insist upon openness and fairness in the rum industry."

SOURCE National Black Chamber of Commerce

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