MIAMI, March 2 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — Today, Florida Democratic U.S. Senate primary candidate Maurice A. Ferre again called on U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek to condemn Diageo’s controversial deal with the U.S. Virgin Islands that will cost Puerto Rico at least $150 million in yearly U.S. tax rebates. Congressman Meek, who sits on the powerful Ways and Means Committee who has jurisdiction, has been silent on this issue.
“There’s simply no reason that a British-owned conglomerate should receive a $3 billion subsidy from U.S. taxpayers over the next 30 years. Facts show that this taxpayer rip-off was engineered by Diageo lobbyists. Diageo’s new subsidy from U.S. taxpayers will be twice as much per gallon as the cost to manufacture that rum,” said Ferre. “If Kendrick Meek wants to represent Florida in the U.S. Senate, he should not blatantly disregard the needs of the 750,000 Puerto Ricans who live here and have families in Puerto Rico, nor should he turn a blind eye to injustice. The implications of Diageo leaving Puerto Rico will be absolutely devastating to those almost four million U.S. citizens.”
“Is Meek comfortable allowing the $150 million in yearly tax rebates used in Puerto Rico for education, social programs, and economic growth to leave the territory because of a random act of corporate greed?” Ferre asked. “The U.S. Virgin Islands has never depended on the business of Captain Morgan Rum (Diageo), which has been manufactured in Puerto Rico since 1985. This is new money for the USVI. It’s not proper for the US taxpayers to help 100,000 U.S. citizens in the US Virgin Islands by hurting 4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico. If Congress does not act, there will be an outflow of U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico to the State of Florida, which has its own deep economic problems.”
The 13-page press release issued by Diageo on Feb. 23 about the controversy they have created between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) contained countless lies and distortions, including attacks on the National Puerto Rican Coalition (NPRC) and Ferre’s Jan. 28 fundraiser held in Puerto Rico.
“Diageo has launched a malicious smear campaign against its critics, including myself, in an effort to hide the details of their shady deal,” said Ferre. “NPRC Chairman Miguel Lausell was not present at my fundraiser, though he was listed as a host. To this day, I have not received any funds directly or indirectly from Mr. Lausell. However, Mr. Lausell has a constitutional right to contribute to my campaign. Diageo’s unfounded attacks on Lausell are characteristically deplorable.”
Lausell is a highly-respected Puerto Rican entrepreneur and has played an important role in the U.S. Democratic Party and the Popular Party in Puerto Rico for many years. He was a key Hispanic advisor to President Bill Clinton and now to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and remains one of the principal advisors of former Commonwealth Governor Rafael Hernandez Colon. The organization he presides over, the NPRC, is a long-established and prestigious Non-Government Organization (NGO) that has represented Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans with integrity and efficiency.
Attachment: Pro Publica, February 3, 2010, “Booze Pirates Fleece Puerto Rico With the Help of Congress” – http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/lobbyists_help_smooth_the_way_for_a_tax_break_for_foreign_rum_maker_2010020/?ln
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