Getting Out the Good News on Puerto Rico
Recently, eTurbo News
published an editorial by Dr. Elinor Garely that challenges our new “Just Think” campaign promoting travel to Puerto Rico. It is riddled with inaccuracies, old data and off-kilter analysis, painting a highly distorted picture of the Island’s well-being. I would like to take this opportunity to correct the record.
For example, Dr. Garely’s article suggests that the Island’s economic condition is worsening, as measured by a diminution in the Island’s bond rating. Exactly the opposite is true. The Island is on the rebound. Just a little over a month ago, for the first time in nearly 30 years, Standard & Poor’s upgraded its outlook on Puerto Rico’s credit to positive.
S&P credit analyst Horacio Aldrete-Sanchez stated that “the outlook revision is based on our view of the commonwealth’s recent implementation of significant expenditure controls and revenue enhancement measures that we believe could help restore budget balance within the next two years.” Similarly, the Wall Street Journal recently opined that Gov. Fortuño’s economic program should serve as a role model for other U.S. governors.
The article also misrepresents the crime problem. Crime is a problem in many American locales and across the Caribbean. But Gov. Luis Fortuño, in office for two years, is working to ensure that lawbreakers, whatever their crimes, are punished to the fullest extent under the law. This is a significant change from what was happening between 1999 and 2003, the period during which some of the statistics she cites were collected.
Indeed, Gov. Fortuño has made crime fighting a major priority of his administration. Under his leadership and with federal support, corrupt police officers have been weeded out of the police force, and joint state and federal strike forces are on the offense in the fight against drug-related violence.
Dr. Garely also notes several recent horrible attacks on transgender people. While obviously regrettable, she gives little credence to the fact that the perpetrators were apprehended and the Fortuño administration, unlike its predecessors, has taken steps to stop these attacks from happening in the future.
She also spends a fair amount of time making mountains out of molehills. For example, she mentions that the Obama administration declared the island eligible to receive federal aid to help in the recovery after Tropical Storm Otto. True. But this is normal procedure anytime a natural disaster hits the United States – be it a hurricane in the Gulf Region, a tornado somewhere in the Plains states, heavy rains in California or a snow storm in the northeast.
Finally, contrary to the author’s point-of-view, Puerto Rico has been recognized by many leading travel authorities as a premier travel destination. For example, Fodor’s has recognized Puerto Rico as the top travel destination in the Caribbean, while Arthur Frommer’s called Puerto Rico one of the top nightlife destinations in the region. Puerto Rico’s distinction as a leading destination is also confirmed by the number of leading hotel properties, such as the Sheraton Convention Center, the W Retreat and Spa in Vieques, the Condado Lagoon Villas and the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, that have opened in the past 18 months. In addition, the Condado Vanderbilt and the six-star Ritz-Carlton Reserve Dorado Beach Resort & Spa are opening soon. Just think, if things were as bad as she states, none of this would have occurred.
Puerto Rico faces a bright future, and the article should have reflected that.
Mario Gonzalez Lafuente is executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.