A five-year property-tax holiday and the scrapping of capital-gains and death taxes have helped push sales of existing homes up 35 percent this year (while they fell 7.9 percent on the mainland) and sales of new homes soaring by 92.2 percent (while they sagged by 9.9 percent up north).
CVS, Nordstrom’s, Pet Smart, P. F. Chang’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Victoria’s Secret all are opening locations in Puerto Rico. “They’re coming in brand new, for the first time, ever,” Fortuño says. Blu Caribe pharmaceuticals, Honeywell, and Merck are expanding manufacturing facilities. Venezuela’s Banesco is the first new bank to open in Puerto Rico in 13 years.
“Things are happening,” Fortuño smiles. “We are moving in the right direction. We are creating jobs in the private sector, not in the public sector, the way we should be. So, we can keep lowering taxes.”
Governor Fortuño in his office in San Juan’s 471-year-old La Fortaleza palace. Photo: Deroy Murdock.
Fortuño and I speak in his stunning, baroque office in La Fortaleza, a former Spanish colonial castle completed in 1540. La Fortaleza is the western hemisphere’s oldest, continuously operated executive mansion. Over the years, it has been seized by British and Dutch invaders as well as pirates of the Caribbean.
Fortuño is a political consultant’s dream. The father of triplets is a principled, well-spoken, and cheerful graduate of Georgetown University (my alma mater). He also seems to take a shot each morning of whatever his very first predecessor, Juan Ponce de León, discovered when he embarked from here to Florida in 1521 to find the Fountain of Youth. Though Fortuño looks 35, he is 51.
“I exercise,” Fortuño says. “I run races. That helps. Lots of water, and get some rest.”
Fortuño has been a fan of this publication for decades.
“I was a subscriber to National Review when I was a college student,” he says. “My roommate would get Sports Illustrated. I would get National Review. It shaped my thinking dramatically. I used it as a guide to what was happening in Washington at the time.”
Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are among Fortuño’s other inspirations. Volumes by and about those visionaries grace Fortuño’s bookshelves. A small sign on his desk replicates one in Reagan’s Oval Office. It explains Luis G. Fortuño’s success, begs Washington to listen, and simply reads: “It CAN be done.”
— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.