FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Power, Politics and Journalism in Puerto Rico

The Universidad del Sagrado Corazón (USC) campus in Santurce, Puerto Rico is a place where the paths of power, politics and journalism converge. One can learn an awful lot about Puerto Rican reality and about why the country is the way that it is just by keeping one’s eyes wide open in this higher learning institution. This private Catholic university has a close working relationship with the powerful Ferré-Rangel clan that is illustrative of how power is wielded in Puerto Rico. USC’s communications school, from where so many of the island’s journalists, advertisers, and public relations and marketing specialists have graduated, is receiving, starting in 2014, $1 million a year for the next five years from GFR Media, part of the family’s corporate empire. Since accepting this grant the school has been renamed Ferré-Rangel Communication School (1).

GFR Media runs three local daily newspapers, including El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s most widely read paper, and 10 business web sites. It is part of Grupo Ferré Rangel, the family’s corporate umbrella.

“The group selectively owns and invests in a value growth portfolio of leading companies that include business development & investments, real estate, media, printing, distribution, marketing solutions and the health industries. The group’s iconic properties include GFR Media… and City View Plaza, a unique Class A real estate development in the heart of San Juan; as well as other group of companies that service telemarketing and distribution.” (2)

Not everyone in the university is impressed with the Ferré-Rangels’ generosity. “This grant [from GFR Media] means that the poorly formed communicators graduated from the school will have to carry the message and editorial line of the Ferré-Rangels and their publications,” said a source in the USC faculty that refused to be identified. This grant “contradicts the institution’s mission, which is to form persons with intellectual liberty, with critical thinking.”

USC and the Ferré-Rangels collaborate in many other initiatives. One of these is Agenda Ciudadana (AC), a roundtable of business and civil society leaders, which “provides a space for trans-sector encounter on public matters that affect the country in the areas of education, the economy, security, health, environment, government structure, human and civil rights, and family life”. It takes credit for the drafting of the so-called Ten Year Plan (Plan Decenal), which seeks to transform public education in Puerto Rico. Other AC partners are Goya, B. Fernández y Hermanos, Microsoft, Bacardí, and the Banco Popular Foundation. Another instance of collaboration is the Press Freedom Center(CLP), a non-governmental organization housed in the USC campus and founded by El Nuevo Día.

According to our confidential source, the university is a stronghold of militant hardcore activists of the right-wing and neoliberal New Progressive Party (PNP), now in the opposition, and of the ultraconservative Catholic group Opus Dei. The USC’s new president is attorney Gilberto Marxuach, who was legal adviser to PNP governor Luis Fortuño (2009-2012). Marxuach was the lead intellectual author of Fortuño’s infamous Law #7, which led to the firing of almost 20,000 public sector employees and facilitated the creation of public-private partnerships, which have turned out to be thinly disguised privatizations (3). USC trustees include Ramón Ruiz-Comas, president of the Triple S health plan, former Bacardí president Angel Torres-Bacardí, and Oriental Bank president José R. Fernández.

“These are the people behind Agenda Ciudadana, and behind the privatizations of the Electric Power Authority and the Education Department with the Plan Decenal for public schools”, said our source.

The Universidad del Sagrado Corazón and US strategy

One of USC’s top scholars is Ramón Daubón, a Puerto Rican economist who seems to play an interesting role in the United States’ geopolitical strategy in Latin America and the Caribbean. Currently coordinator of USC’s master’s program in community development, Daubón was an official of the Ford Foundation in South America from 1990 to 1993, and USAID deputy assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean from 1993 to 1996 (4). USAID is an arm of US foreign policy and has frequently been accused of meddling in the internal affairs of nations it works in, and of being a front for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). During 2014 USAID was caught red handed in rather clownish schemes to destabilize Cuba, by using social media and by funding hip hop rappers (5). US citizen Alan Gross, arrested in Cuba in 2009 for smuggling satellite broadband equipment and released in December 2014, was at the time of his arrest a subcontractor for USAID (6).

From 2002 to 2008 Daubón was vice-president of the Inter American Foundation, an entity created by the US government to support grassroots community development in Latin America, and has been since 1995 an associate of the Kettering Foundation, which “seeks to identify and address the challenges to making democracy work as it should through interrelated program areas that focus on citizens, communities, and institutions”, according to its web site.

Since 2008 Daubón is president of Esquel Group, which describes itself thus:

“The Esquel Group (EG) is a private non-profit organization founded in 1984 and dedicated to stalwart citizenship as the common element in sustainable democracy and sustainable economic development. It is a member of the Grupo Esquel network with associate entities in Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras and Uruguay. Its focus is strongly—though not exclusively—Latin American. It receives its support from contracted work and from donations from private, public and multilateral sources.

Through seminars, presentations and training programs EG promotes national policies as well as grassroots initiatives dedicated to social inclusion and sustainable development. It fosters inquiry and action towards self governance and greater citizen engagement in public life, particularly at the local level. EG… conducts training on social entrepreneurship for community development, with particular focus on practices for strengthening the structure and functions of civil society networks, deliberative democracy and conflict management skills.” (7)

Not everyone in Latin America is thrilled with this nonprofit’s activities. An article circulated by Voltaire Net, titled “Esquel: the brain of yankee injustice in Ecuador”, claims that “Esquel is another one of the organizations that receives USAID funding; it leads a justice outfit called ‘National Coalition for Justice’. This would be one of the organizations that intervenes in the election and designation of the country’s magistrates, judges and judicial officials.” (8) An article published in the Ecuadorian newspaper El Telégrafo (June 20 2012) about USAID financing for the political opposition in countries that are members of the left-leaning Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) singles out Esquel as subcontractor or partner in a USAID project in Ecuador called “Strengthening Civil Society in Ecuador”, also known as “Active Citizenry”. (9)

Daubón is on the global advisory board of the Foundation for Puerto Rico. (10) Founded in 2011, this new player in the Puerto Rico power scene “aspires to transform Puerto Rico by driving entrepreneurial engagement and exports, encouraging public sector innovation, unleashing human capital, and fostering social innovation. Our mission is to serve as a catalyst for Puerto Rico’s transformation into a vibrant society and economy by driving entrepreneurship and innovation”, according to its LinkedIn profile (11). Another member of the Foundation’s advisory board is the powerful and influential Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City (12). Other heavy hitters on the board include executives from Pixelogic, Doral Bank, Viacom and UBS, and two former USC presidents. The Foundation’s directors include Luis Alberto Ferré-Rangel, director of El Nuevo Día, and former Puerto Rico governor and San Juan mayor Sila Calderón.

Daubón is an adviser and scholar at USC’s Institute for Leadership, Empresarismo and Citizenship (ILEC), which according to our confidential source, serves to “facilitates sustained dialogue and through forums and dialogues convince civic, social and community groups of the necessity of embracing change and privatization.”

ILEC is run by Alfredo Carrasquillo, husband of current San Juan mayor Carmen Cruz (of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD)). Carrasquillo is an intellectual leader of theSoberanista tendency within the PPD. He chairs the board of directors of the Soberanista project Somos País, and was a close collaborator of one of the Soberanistamovement’s top leaders, William Miranda-Marín, the late PPD mayor of Caguas.

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican journalist. http://carmeloruiz.blogspot.com/ On Twitter: @carmeloruiz

Notes.

1 Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero “When Is a Corporate Media Group Too Powerful?” Inter Press Service, November 5 2014. http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/when-is-a-corporate-media-group-too-powerful/

2 http://grupoferrerangel.com/about-us/

3 El Nuevo Día, July 6 2011. http://www.elnuevodia.com/renunciademarxuachsecocinabahacemeses-1008991.html

4 Ramón Daubón. LinkedIn profile. https://www.linkedin.com/pub/ramon-e-daubon/8/634/5ab

5 Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero. “The Company that Almost Ruined Cuban Hip Hop is a Profitable Global Operation” Counterpunch, December 29 2014.https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/29/the-company-that-almost-ruined-cuban-hip-hop-is-a-profitable-global-operation/

6 Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero. “Who was Alan Gross working for?” Counterpunch, December 22 2014. https://www.counterpunch.org/2014/12/22/who-was-alan-gross-working-for/

7 http://esquel.org/

8 Voltaire Net. “Esquel: el cerebro de la injusticia yanqui en el Ecuador” March 21 2005. http://www.voltairenet.org/article124334.html

9 El Telégrafo (Ecuador) “Usaid admite que financia a la oposición en países de la ALBA” June 20 2012. http://www.telegrafo.com.ec/noticias/informacion-general/item/usaid-admite-que-financia-a-la-oposicion-en-paises-de-la-alba.html

10 http://foundationforpuertorico.org/

11 https://www.linkedin.com/company/foundation-for-puerto-rico

12 Kathryn Wylde profile in Business Week. http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=162770&privcapId=95085

This article originally appeared on http://alainet.org/.

More articles by:

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican journalist.

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail