Has Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis had any effect—in the past or in the future—on the financial capital of its political leaders?
This is a recurrent question among the Island’s residents, at a time when higher taxes, tariffs, service charges, and overall cost increases are being proposed to balance the Government’s budget.
Citizens are also wondering whether the investments, pensions, and retirement plans of those who establish public policy and legislate to impose it are at risk. If not, people wonder, are their proposals meant to protect their own interests?
Some of these questions may be answered with the following breakdown. The data comes from the 2016 financial statements submitted to the State Elections Commission (CEE, by its Spanish acronym) by Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, and every mayor, senator, and representative, during the days before they were sworn in.
Forty two percent of these 161 elected officials own more than one real estate property. However, 69 of these officials only own one, and it is usually their place of residence.
In contrast, many officials own over five properties, and although some own fewer, the CEE reports that their second and third properties have a high market value. Hence, raising taxes on these kinds of properties would increase their tax payments and reduce their net worth.
For example, Mayor of Las Marías Edwin Soto (from the New Progressive Party, NPP) owns 14 properties, including residences, businesses, and plots of land. He has his main residence, three additional homes, an apartment, six commercial properties, 2 plots of land, and an estate. According to his statements, the sum of all these exceeds $1.3 million.
This mayor owns more real estate than any other elected official. Nevertheless, freshman Senator Carlos Rodríguez Mateo (NPP) owns seven properties that are worth more than Soto’s, adding up to $1,840,000.
Rodríguez Mateo, who was mayor of Salinas for eight years, owns two apartments, one worth $695,000 and another worth $205,000. He also owns a $350,000 house on a plot of land, a $270,000 residence, a $175,000 commercial building, a $70,000 lot, and a $75,000 parcel of land.
The Senator, a doctor by trade, has a 67.4% stake in Sur-Med Medical Center, a company valued at $350,000.
Representative Antonio Soto Torres (NPP) owns three properties in Guaynabo, whose added value is slightly less than Rodríguez Matos’s properties. According to the report he submitted to the CEE, Soto Torres owns a $530,000 commercial property and two homes valued at $675,000 and $620,000, respectively, for a total of $1,825,000.
Meanwhile, Minority Leader and former Senate President Eduardo Bhatia (from the Popular Democratic Party, PDP) owns four real estate properties that add up to a little over $1 million. Bhatia owns a $450,000 home, a $375,000 apartment, and two plots of land valued at $162,500 and $65,000.
Representative José “Conny” Varela (PDP) also owns four real estate properties with a total worth of $951,870. His Caguas home is valued at $450,000, while the one in Isla Verde is valued at $300,000. He also owns a $170,000 apartment building in Cayey and a house in the US worth $31,870.
Senators, representatives, and mayors tend to own stock in credit unions. While the Resident Commissioner also owns this kind of stock, it does not seem that the Governor holds shares in any Puerto Rican co-op.
Many of them also turn to this sector for personal and auto loans.
According to the financial reports analyzed by this newspaper, 36 officials own stock in co-ops from their residential area. The total investment among all of them adds up to nearly $450,000.
Mayor of Humacao Marcelo Trujillo (PDP) has the most money invested in co-op stock, with a total of $128,556. Senator Abel Nazario (NPP) comes in second, with $82,277. The other elected officials with credit union assets have acquired between $25,210 and $155 in these stocks.
Out of the elected officials whose financial statements El Nuevo Día analyzed, 18 reported owning businesses or shares in the business or professional service sector.
Recently elected Mayor of Toa Baja Bernardo Márquez García (NPP) owns $2.26 million in commercial businesses. His holdings in Márquez & García, Inc., a corporation registered in 1987 to establish and offer consultancy services to supermarkets, accounts for $1,923,000. He also owns $139,333 in stock from Supermercados Selectos, and $204,700 in common stock from Inversiones Prosel, Inc., a corporation related to supermarket distribution centers.
Mayor of Santa Isabel Enrique Questell (NPP) has Aquamak Corporation shares adding up to $2 million. This corporation was registered in 1984 for real estate investments.
Senator Axel Roque (NPP) for the district of Guayama owns a $420,000 share in his own enterprise, Roque Insurance. Meanwhile, Senator Rodríguez Mateo owns—in addition to his $350,000 stake in Sur-Med Medical—another $50,000 stake in Grupo Médico Sur-Med, Inc.
Senator Eric Correa (NPP) owns Panadería y Repostería del Mar, a café worth $365,237, as per his financial report. According to a corporate resolution submitted before the State Department, Correa was named president of this corporation in February of 2013.
Before this date, Juan Ernesto Alemán Ortiz had led the corporation, which was registered in 2008, and corporate documents state that Correa did not hold any kind of management position. According to the 2015 annual report submitted by Panadería y Repostería del Mar to the State Department, at the time, the corporation had a capital of $746,551.
Senator Correa’s financial statements do not show that he took out any personal or business loans.
Mayor of Isabela Carlos Delgado Altieri owns $340,000 in Isabela Drug, Inc. shares. This corporation was registered on December 7, 2000.
The other officials that reported assets in goods or service corporations have investments ranging between $1,000 and $183,863, including Governor Rosselló Nevares, who has invested $20,000 in unspecified companies.
Rosselló Nevares is also among the 13 elected officials who have invested in the stock market. The Governor’s financial report reflects $371,700 in investments.
When it comes to this type of investment, Senator Henry Neumann (NPP) is at the top of the list in terms of market value, with a portfolio of $1.6 million in AAA tax-exempt bonds from UBS Financial, a certificate of deposit, and an annuity, all of which adds up to $174,472.
Senator Bhatia also has $1.1 million in shares, bonds, and debt securities. Representative Varela has $264,139 in Popular Securities and common shares from Triple S. Senator Miguel Pereira (PDP) also has $144,173 worth of investments in Popular Securities.
The other eight officials with market investments report between $1,200 and $88,673 in securities.
The investments made by the officials include art, auto, and animal collections.
Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz (NPP) reported $506,450 worth of vehicles to the CEE. Although he did not specify their models or makes, it is known that he owns antique cars. His financial statement also shows he owns $65,000 worth of horses and exotic birds.
Mayor of Guaynabo Héctor O'Neill also owns antique vehicles valued at $90,000. Cars or motorcycles are considered antiques if they were manufactured at least 25 years before their plates were issued.
Although it has already been said that license plate costs will increase this year, it is unclear whether this will include vintage cars. Their special plates currently cost an additional dollar.
Meanwhile, Senator Rodríguez Mateo valued his art collection at $225,000, while Representative Brenda López (PDP) valued hers at $71,500. Mayor of Adjuntas Jaime Barlucea (NPP) reported an art collection worth $43,000, and a $3,500 guitar. The Resident Commissioner reported that her art collection is worth $32,612.
Mayor of Loíza Julia Nazario (PDP) owns $15,200 in art, while Representative Denis Márquez (from the Puerto Rican Independence Party, PIP) valued his collection at $15,000, and Senator Bhatia, at $10,000.