By LOSING PUERTO RICO
SAN JUAN — The Losing Puerto Rico media project launched a multimedia campaign to focus attention on an obscure and one-of-a-kind tax loophole that allows rich Americans to move to Puerto Rico and avoid paying most of their taxes.
The tax law, Act 22, is driving up costs and pricing out Puerto Ricans from their own communities and homeland. Act 22 incentivizes wealthy Americans, including “crypto-colonizers,” to evade taxes. The result is not only a rapid Puerto Rican displacement crisis, but a deprivation of tax revenue on the continental U.S. that funds local schools, roads and other essential services.
Through a series of videos, Losing Puerto Rico illustrates not only the consequences and suffering of this inhumane tax law but also the socioeconomic, historic and political context of Puerto Rico as a U.S. colony. Losing Puerto Rico’s first video explains how hurricanes and financial crises provided the fertile ground for Act 22 —which is now engulfed in Act 60— to exploit a loophole in the federal law and ultimately created this current existential crisis for most Puerto Ricans.
“If you live in the continental United States, rich people from your community may be moving to Puerto Rico to exploit extraordinary tax loopholes, where they not only evade most U.S. taxes and deprive your community of resources but deprive a cash-strapped Puerto Rico of local taxes as well,” said Nomiki Konst, co-producer of Losing Puerto Rico.
“If you are a boricua (Puerto Rican) in the diaspora and have loved ones on the island, chances are they live in communities where many are being priced out by outsiders not paying their fair share,” said Federico de Jesús, co-producer of Losing Puerto Rico. “Losing Puerto Rico seeks to educate and organize so Congress closes the Act 22 loophole once and for all.”
Losing Puerto Rico is a video project aimed to educate, inspire and activate Boricuas in Puerto Rico and in the diaspora, as well as activists in the continental United States. Many of the crises Puerto Rico faces are not new and are a manifestation of root issues inflicted on the island by the United States government.
“Over the past 15 years, budget cuts and austerity-driven policies have pushed hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans out of the archipelago. While this happened, those same policies allowed thousands of rich people from the United States to pay little to no taxes, buy cheap properties and take over historical communities with no regard for the well-being of the people of Puerto Rico,” explained Julio López Varona, co-chief of campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy. “Act 22 is one of the worst examples of these practices of extraction and abuse. It is, by all definitions, the gentrification of an island. We cannot allow this to continue happening.”
The video series begins with a broad overview of the crisis on the island that has rapidly ensued since Hurricane María, including a growing crypto and influencer community that has received local pushback not only for driving up the cost of living but how they treat the island and local Puerto Ricans. Future campaigns will highlight other issues related to the tax breaks and revenue crisis, including housing displacement, the privatization of the power grid to LUMA, and the Jones Act.
“For more than a century, we have suffered from colonial measures that leave us with little to no chance to grow as a nation,” said Losing Puerto Rico film editor Adrián Pérez, a resident of San Juan. “It’s clear that in the last decade, Act 22 has become a vehicle for wealthy Americans to abuse U.S. law, avoid their American income tax obligations, and consciously displace us Puerto Ricans from our own homeland. We need to have our voices heard, and Congress has the power to close the Act 22 tax loophole. If we can’t make this happen, Puerto Rico may no longer be for boricuas.”
“Act 22 needs to be abolished. We simply cannot afford to lose our land and our nation,” Pérez added.
Losing Puerto Rico is a media project aimed to broaden the narratives around the multiple crises facing Puerto Rico and Boricuas by inviting action targeted towards those who have power to make immediate change. We are an experienced collective of journalists, researchers, filmmakers and activists who have worked extensively on issues related to Puerto Rico, as well as all over the world. Twitter: @LosingPR