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How Crypto-Rich Emigrating to Puerto Rico Foreshadows the Possible Displacement of Local Citizens

(Photo courtesy of the New York Post) Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency, without a central bank or single administrator, that can be sent from user to user on the peer-to-peer bitcoin network without the need for intermediaries. 

London Verdejo
Connector Contributor

The rich have three prevalent motivations: wealth, superiority, and power. As they grow their businesses, wealthy entrepreneurs scour for ways to produce even more cash. The richer you are, the more influence you have. The rich aspire to be above society, like gods living in Mount Olympus. This mindset is what new millionaires learn when they get their wealth. Most newcomers to the wealthy lifestyle arrived at this party from the same chariot—cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency swept the world off of its feet. We are observing the effects of crypto’s boom. It’s mostly unbelievable amounts of people becoming rich. However, there is one caveat, he rich climbed the mountain, and they don’t want to be at the bottom again. They need to keep most, if not all, of their incoming money. As US citizens, they need to pay taxes. What if they found a grey area?
Enter stage left Puerto Rico, a beautiful, vibrant island. A little over 3 million people. Tragedy after tragedy ensues on the island, however, hurricanes, earthquakes, corrupt governments, fragile education system, increasing crime rates. In 2019, the Puerto Rican government approved Act 60, an upgrade of 2012 Act 22. This law allows investors to be 100% exempt from taxes if they gain Puerto Rican residency. The government wanted to bring more money into the island, making PR a hub for global investment, thus saving the economy finally. Things were looking up.
But this is not a Pixar film.
Running with their large bags of money, the rich jumped into PR’s backseat, promising to bring innovation and money. Instead, what happened was tax avoidance.
Many locals were not happy about this. The crypto-rich fleet to Puerto Rico carried a false promise of economic growth. But fleeing the US is their choice, it’s alright, unless they want to take over your land. Figures like Brock Pierce, who arrived in PR in 2018 after becoming crypto-rich, expose the rich’s desire: they want Puerto Rico to be theirs. According The New York Times Pierce bought a monastery in Old San Juan and turned it into a deluxe living complex. He also purchased the San Juan Children’s Museum and turned it into a club for the crypto-rich. Pierce wants to build a city called Sol (previously Puertopia), which uses crypto as their currency. Mind you, Old San Juan is just a segment of San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. Many people have been here for years, and he knows.
During quarantine, as more people gained interest in crypto and NFTs became a thing, the recent crypto-rich flee surge began. The face of this surge is Logan Paul, a controversial YouTube figure. He moved to Dorado, a city that became gentrified thanks to the rich moving to PR to avoid taxes, both crypto-rich and traditional wealthy citizens.
And, as this surge carries on, these wealthy subjects are moving to other cities. One municipality who suffers because of this is Rincón. Because of the waves of affluent citizens moving to Rincón, many locals are losing their homes. Tenants see their proprietors evict them to, instead, rent to a wealthier American, and local houses turn into Airbnb’s.
As things progress, one thing is certain. The crypto-rich want to establish dominance. The rich feel as if they’re entitled to someone’s home that they’ve owned for decades just because they’re rich.
In media, locals are the villain of this story. The media glorify the rich, encouraging others to join the wave. In an article from CNBC, they talk to the fleeing millionaires. Not once do they bother to ask about the local perspective, because the locals are unwelcoming and don’t want to understand crypto. Puerto Ricans have all the right to be angry. The rich abuse something that was supposed to bring in funds that are needed to save hundreds of public schools and a few public university campuses from shutting down. PR is grasping at the edge of the cliff in which they dangle. One more wrong move and they will fall, the country’s economic structure collapsing. And the rich took advantage of that.
The influx of millionaires emigrating to Puerto Rico portrays the power dynamics of poor versus rich. Whilst Puerto Rican citizens see their bills increase, public schools close and public university system lose more funding every year, wealthy Americans move to the island to avoid paying taxes. If their behavior remains enabled by the government and media, their megalomaniac tendencies will lead to the islanders’ displacement. It’s unethical to endanger someone’s living situation, let alone for this. Sometimes the ends don’t justify the means, and the rich seem reluctant to realize this.

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