- BBC News World
21 September 2022
In his new video, Bad Bunny is not the protagonist.
The Puerto Rican singer presented a few days ago “The blackout”a new production of almost 23 minutes that is more than just a music video clip.
In fact, its music and lyrics are only an accompaniment to a short documentary made by the Puerto Rican journalist Bianca Graulau and titled “People live here”which denounces various problems experienced by the inhabitants of the American island.
“I don’t want to leave here, I don’t want to leave here. Let them go, let them go“, sings Bad Bunny in “El Apagón”.
The video became a hit: in the first 72 hours after it was posted it got almost 6 million reproductions.
And it was released just a few hours before the hurricane fiona reached Puerto Rico, causing a blackout that left more than 1 million people in the darka situation that is repeated regularly and that Bad Bunny denounces in his video clip.
These are some of the serious problems in Puerto Rico that “El Apagón” sheds light on:
Five years after the devastating passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017, the government of Puerto Rico signed a 15 year contract with a private US-Canadian company, Luma Energy, to become the new energy operator of the island.
Its job is to restore and manage the electrical infrastructure that was severely damaged by that hurricane, so that the island does not suffer from a lack of electricity again during ddays, weeks and haveper months.
But Graulau’s report exposes how the blackouts continue and points to two that occurred this year.
One took place in April, after an explosion at the Costa Sur power plant in Guayanilla, and left more than a million Puerto Ricans without power; The other serious blackout occurred last August, at the University Hospital for Adults -one of the most important in the country-, which was without electricity for almost a day, putting the lives of patients at risk.
“There is clearly a widespread perception in Puerto Rico that Luma has not done its job and we can see this in the protests of the past few months that have occurred almost daily on the island that demand that the government inspect the company,” says the Puerto Rican journalist for BBC Mundo Ronald Ávila-Claudio.
“But Governor Pedro Pierluisi has defended the energy consortium on several occasions. This is something that has also bothered many people, because the government’s role is to oversee this company,” he adds.
Bianca Graulau also points out that Puerto Ricans have seen seven consecutive increases in the electricity bill, even though the service has not improved.
And Bad Bunny sings: “Damn, another blackout.”
Last August, and in the face of popular outrage, Governor Pierluisi assured that he was not satisfied with Luma’s performance and said that the company “has to make changes in its execution plan to significantly improve the service it is offering to our people.” .
“Although I recognize that the electrical network we have is fragile and obsolete, It is Luma’s responsibility to operate it under the critical and emergency state in which it is located.“, he said in a statement.
The “gentrification” of San Juan
Another complaint in the report is the displacement of the inhabitants of popular neighborhoods of San Juan, who have been forced to leave their homes before the arrival ofpromoters real estatea global phenomenon that occurs in tourist cities and is known as “gentrification”.
Real estate companies -many of them with foreign capital- build new apartments to rent or sell at unaffordable prices for neighbors who have lived there for years.
Not a few residents have received the “30 day notice to vacate”.
“We are going to be foreigners in our own homeland,” a resident of Puerta de Tierra de San Juan complains in Bad Bunny’s video, a neighborhood that has historically housed popular housing but has a highly desired position as it is close to the area. tourist of Old San Juan.
A person with a median income of $1,750 cannot afford the new monthly income of more than US$2,500 of the new real estate developments that have flourished in the neighborhood.
“The complaints of gentrification cover the entire island. In Rincón, in the west of the island, there is a clear demographic change in sectors that are close to the beach and that have been appropriated by people with high purchasing power. And in Luquillo, in Vieques and Culebra islands as well. Housing prices have increased tremendously and the average Puerto Rican salary is very low. There is a huge housing crisis after Hurricane Maria,” explains Ávila-Claudio.
The benefits of “law 22”
Linked to the displacement of local inhabitants, the report also denounces how a law – the Law to Encourage the Transfer of Individual Investors to Puerto Rico, known as “ley 22”– is benefiting outsiders.
The standard offers exemptions tax so that certain investors do not pay taxes on capital gains after becoming residents of the island.
Due to these benefits, Puerto Rico has become an attractive destination for entrepreneurs from various sectors since the approval of the law, but the arrival of those who work in the world of blockchain and cryptocurrencies has had more impact.
Carlos Fontán Meléndez, director of the Puerto Rico Incentives Office, told BBC Mundo last March that thanks to tax exemptions, the real estate sector had recorded purchases worth US$1.3 billion, which translated into some US$ $8.8 million in revenue for the public coffers.
But many in Puerto Rico consider that not this money benefits the people, an issue that the government attributes to a perception problem.
Bianca Graulau points out in the report that more than 3,000 investors they have benefited from “law 22”, many of whom have bought popular housing and even an old abandoned school to transform it into hotels and apartments for tourists.
The powerful real estate investors, denounces the journalist, are donors of politicians and partiesthus ensuring that the rules do not change.
The “privatization” of the beaches
What is happening on Playa del Dorado, west of San Juan, is an example of how private tourist developments are restricting access to beachesppublic of the island, says the report.
Despite the fact that the law requires that there be access through private properties, and that a margin of 20 meters of beach for public use be respected, the authorities do not always enforce the norm.
Thus, some hotels, villas, clubs and private properties may improperly have their exclusive beach portions.
“A swimming pool in front of a beach, what is the need for that? Invading the habitat of turtles,” lamented a neighbor on a beach in Cornerin the west of the island.
But some Puerto Ricans in that town have taken action on their own.
After days of protests in front of a condominium, protesters demolished an illegal construction of a swimming pool on public land after obtaining a favorable court ruling.
The case was a victory that “El Apagón” frames as a sign that Puerto Ricans are fighting for their rights.
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