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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Anti-corruption group calls for bill to ban conflicts of interest in asphalt contracts

Several organizations contend that a “Puerto Rico Asphalt Cartel” has a “mafia-like monopoly” on road paving projects that looms large in the recent arrests of several mayors.

By The Star Staff

For Puerto Rico to eliminate rampant government corruption, the Puerto Rican Anti-Corruption Committee urged lawmakers Tuesday to introduce legislation that would “ban the asphalt mixture manufacturer,” or “asfaltera,” from being “the asphalt application contractor.”

Several organizations said the island has a “Puerto Rico Asphalt Cartel” that has a “mafia-like monopoly” that is responsible for the recent arrests of several mayors.

“If Puerto Rico had an Anti-Monopoly Law on asphalt, prohibiting the partners, shareholders, and owners of the asphalt mix manufacturing plants from also having contracts to apply the material, these mayors would not have been convicted of federal crimes,” said Willie Pérez, spokesperson for the Puerto Rican Anti-Corruption Committee.

He also said such a law will help control asphalt prices since it would create a more competitive market, generating savings for the central government and the municipalities.

“This is also why we do not have good roads in Puerto Rico, since here the one who produces the asphalt mixture material does not provide a guarantee of the product and the one who applies it does not provide a guarantee because they know that they have a monopoly,” Pérez said.

“This does not happen in the concrete industry. Here in Puerto Rico the concrete plants are not dedicated to being concrete contractors and it creates tremendously good competition that benefits in that the concrete plants have to offer a good price,” he pointed out. “So if we see that, with concrete, Puerto Rico benefits in this way where the one who produces the material does not monopolize the construction and application of concrete at all, then why do we let the asphalt conglomerates have such a monopoly?”

He charged that companies like Puerto Rico Asphalt LLC (formerly Betteroads) have a monopoly on Municipality of San Juan contracts for $22 million, since they manufacture and apply the material.

“An asphalt contractor who does not own a mixing manufacturing plant can never compete,” Pérez said. “Additionally, the Puerto Rico Asphalt LLC monopoly prevented the Municipality of San Juan from saving 30% on the million-dollar cost of asphalt in these contracts. It means that if we had an Asphalt Anti-Monopoly Law in Puerto Rico, the Municipality of San Juan would have saved about $7 million from these contracts.”

The same happens with Super Asphalt, DB Asphalt, A&M Asphalt, Alex Asphalt, Transporte Rodríguez Asfalto, Robles Asphalt, Asphalt Solutions, Santa Isabel Asphalt “and everyone who today manufactures and in turn monopolizes the daily supply and application of asphalt” on the island, the anti-corruption group stressed.

“Likewise, we ask the federal inspector of the federal Department of Justice to carry out investigations into this illegal practice in Puerto Rico, which is a territory of the United States and where the majority of asphalt projects are financed with federal funds,” Pérez said. “We know that these monopolistic practices violate countless federal laws on collusion, the Rico Act, white collar crimes, illicit enrichment, and many more federal criminal offenses.”

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2 comentarios

William Rosa
William Rosa
21 feb

The bill requested by the PRACC might address an area to be investigated; however, on the paragrpah before the last the Staff indicates that there are eight asphalt companies operating. For the Puerto Rican market, this seems to be adequate; there is always room for improvement but what is the demand for asphalt currently.

I believe the PRACC knows, like most of the country, the unsustainable levels of government corruption. If their "charge" is to fight government corruption, as they say, they should be extremely active given the prolific questionable practices of the current and previous PPD/PNP "gobiernos de turno." For example, how do you call the fact that there are three separate companies managing the production and distribution of…

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Oscar Melendez
Oscar Melendez
21 feb

Their proposal- separating manufacturing the product from those that put the product on the streets-doesn’t guarantee there won’t be corruption

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