Puerto Rico lacks credibility in battle over rum production

The revelation that rum companies in Puerto Rico received tens of millions of dollars in undisclosed payments funneled through Rums of Puerto Rico (article, “Battle over rum tax to continue after break,” April 7) is a devastating blow to Puerto Rico’s specious arguments against the U.S. Virgin Islands’ economic development partnerships.

The message to Puerto Rico is clear: Get your own house in order and learn something from the U.S. Virgin Islands’ transparency and innovative policies.

The message to Congress is equally clear: Puerto Rico’s self-imposed rum subsidy cap, which has been deceptively flaunted at the expense of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is a façade to mask generations of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing.

Over a month ago, I wrote to Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño asking for transparency and openness regarding his territory’s rum subsidies. Ongoing rumors about off-the-books payments raised concerns that Puerto Rico was not being honest with Congress or its own residents.

Puerto Rican duplicity has caught up to them, with a rum executive confirming backdoor payments to rum companies. It provides further evidence to Congress that Puerto Rico has no basis to interfere in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ business and economic development affairs.

The U.S. Virgin Islands’ governor and government are working diligently and transparently to expand their local economy, growing revenue through investments that increase rum production and yield new rum excise tax cover-over revenue for the territory’s people. This strategy will increase the U.S.

Virgin Islands’ long-term fiscal stability, generate business growth and enable it to address the pension funding challenges that all states face due to the economic downturn.

Without these investments, the U.S. Virgin Islands’ cover-over revenue would remain stagnant over the next 10 to 30 years. Because of these investments, which some falsely label as subsidies, annual cover-over revenue generated by the U.S. Virgin Islands projects to grow from $90 million to up to $240 million in the coming decades.

These investments will build state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly rum production and wastewater treatment facilities.

A rum executive in Puerto Rico has admitted to receiving under-the-table subsidies from the Puerto Rican government, finally confirming the public’s suspicions of secret payments. Congress can no longer deny that Puerto Rico’s arguments hold no ground in this debate.

From Harry C. Alford, president and CEO, National Black Chamber of Commerce, Washington

Certain sales to Iran permitted under law

In your April 3 article, “Congressional Harvard alumni lobbied to support Iran divestment on campus,” I am quoted as saying that three successive administrations have violated U.S. law. I was referring in that context to the Iran Sanctions Act, a statute that seeks to sanction firms that invest in Iran’s energy sector, a law that has gone unenforced since 1998.

I was not referring to the sale of replacement aircraft parts. However ill advised these exports may be, the approval of such transfers is not illegal.

From Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), chairman, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism and Nonproliferation, Washington