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Ricardo Benjamín Salinas Pliego es un empresario mexicano, Fundador y Presidente de Grupo Salinas. Es un hombre cuyas convicciones y pensamiento se reflejan claramente en su obra así como en sus actividades empresariales. Es un hombre de familia, forjado en el valor del trabajo, la tenacidad, el esfuerzo y la pasión para alcanzar los sueños. Se considera un optimista nato.

Contador Público por el Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, cuenta con una Maestría en negocios por la Universidad de Tulane; sin embargo, no cree que los títulos académicos otorguen conocimiento por encima de la experiencia. Desde muy joven desarrolló su instinto empresarial en diversos negocios. Imposible es una palabra que no está en su diccionario.

Lector apasionado de la historia, sus personajes, el arte, la ciencia, la tecnología así como los negocios y finanzas, gusta de compartir sus intereses y no duda en manifestar su opinión sobre diversos temas de interés, como lo hace regularmente en su blog. Sus ideas las ha expuesto el Foro Económico Mundial de Davos, en The Young President’s Organization, The Economist Mexico Business Roundtable, el Instituto de las Américas, la Cámara de Comercio de los Estados Unidos, UCLA, TED, CAP, The Aspen Institute, The New York Forum, Universidad de Michigan, Universidad de Georgetown y la Escuela de Negocios de Harvard, donde usualmente trata asuntos relacionados con liderazgo, globalización, gobierno corporativo y las oportunidades en la base de la pirámide.

Freedom of Commerce?

Libertad de comercio

“O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave,”

National Anthem of the United States of America

The land of the free has one of the most restrictive and absurd laws that has ever been enacted. We’re talking about the Jones Act of 1920, an expression of the most infamous protectionism, legislation that requires merchant marine shipping between all ports of the United States to be made exclusively with vessels and crews of this nationality.

This foolishness, like many others that occur daily is a product of the lobbying of large companies and its price tag is paid by families, especially in the most vulnerable sectors of society, like Puerto Rico, which, as an island, is particularly affected by this law. Let's take a closer look.

Any product that arrives at the United States and whose final destination is Puerto Rico must be unloaded in Jacksonville and reloaded on a ship with an American flag and crew. This means families on the island pay a mark-up of 15% to 20% on everything imported to the island. This extra cost represents a considerable negative weight in terms of Puerto Ricans’ well-being, especially in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

The devastation caused by the storm left the island on the verge of a deep humanitarian crisis. Puerto Rico’s electricity network was destroyed and could take weeks to rebuild. The lack of electricity and damage to infrastructure are paralyzing hospitals, schools, and other basic institutions. The population is at risk of a health crisis due to the scarcity of drinking water and basic medicines; despair is increasing among people due to scarcity food and other necessities; dozens of buildings have collapsed and numerous roads were destroyed. Furthermore, the money supply on the island has collapsed, leading to speculation and growing violence.

When this is coupled with the damage from Hurricane Irma, the weight of the debt, and the bankruptcy that the local government faces, the outlook for 3.4 million Puerto Ricans is terrifying.

Faced with such desolation, the White House has been harshly criticized for its banality, lack of empathy, and for aiming unfounded criticism against the affected population. Fortunately, the federal government has decided to temporarily lift the application of the Jones Act. As a result, any ship will be allowed to transport goods to the island, and therefore we hope to see a drop in the price of all articles of consumption, medicines, supplies, and items needed for relief efforts that are so urgently required.

Thanks to this measure, importers have the freedom to choose among transportation options, and Puerto Ricans will have quicker access to basic necessities. No one will be required by law to use non-competitive companies that are expensive and provide poor service.

The bad news is that this great gesture of generosity is only temporary.

In a few days, everything will return to normal. In other words, the exploitation of the inhabitants of Puerto Rico at the hands of shipping companies, distributors, and other predators will continue, thanks to their powerful lobbyists in DC.

This is possible because Puerto Ricans are second-class citizens. They have only one Representative in the U.S. Congress ... but this person does not have the right to vote. This reminds us of that memorable revolutionary slogan of 1776: "No taxation without representation."

Today, the White House is blaming and humiliating this "Commonwealth" for having an unpayable debt totaling US$72 billion dollars. However, compared to the value of the plunder of the Jones Act, this debt is insignificant. The annual cost of this looting is estimated at some US$6 billion. After 97 years of abuse, it could be said that US companies have unjustly extracted at least US$ 582 billion from Puerto Rican families  ̶  and this is without updating this figure for the time value of money, which would result in a staggering amount.

From this shameful chapter we have learned that the United States does not fully maintain a free market. The Jones Act is a typical case of what is known as regulatory capture: that is, the imposition of laws that only benefit the big and powerful. It is also an example of the damage generated by the anti-capitalistic mentality, as defined by Ludwig von Mises.

It is shameful to see that industry is represented by abusive companies that thrive at the expense of the well-being of the most vulnerable families, those who, because of an unjust system, do not even have political representation in Washington.

Freedom is a key value for which we have historically paid a very high price. Furthermore, it is very easy to lose that freedom. This entire humiliating chapter teaches us that commercial freedom is a cornerstone of the system of liberties and we must defend it with everything in our power.

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Roberto Cantú, Villahermosa Tabasco:

Independientemente de si el artículo del señor Salinas es bueno o no lo es, no soy quien para juzgarlo, me quedo con la primera cita del himno nacional de EE.UU.: "Tierra de la libertad". Tuve la necesidad de radicar en los Estados Unidos por espacio de 5 años y la verdad lo que más extrañé fue la libertad de acción que existe en nuestro México (la comida mexicana no la extrañé porque cocinábamos en casa). Allá todo está prohibido. Tengo una colección de fotografías de letreros prohibiendo de TODO: NO fumar, NO pescar, NO pasar, NO estacionar, NO nadar, NO entrar, NO BBQ, NO acampar, NO ruido, NO festejar, NO juegos pirotécnicos ("cuetes"), NO correr, NO bicicletas, NO fiestas, y así un sinnúmero de prohibiciones. TODO está regulado (para mi gusto en exceso). Los "gringos" viven dando gracias a sus fuerzas armadas por la libertad que se goza dentro de su país. Sin embargo, México y la mayoría de los paises no tienen fuerzas armadas distribuidas por todo el mundo y gozamos de mayor libertad de acción. Pero esto de las fuerzas armadas es otro tema.

Rabindranath Cano , Mexico:

Muy bueno, hace recordarnos que nosotros seguimos avanzando y me recuerda la frase que dice: "Siempre espera lo mejor pero prepárate para lo peor".

Andres Roemer, México:

Querido y admirado amigo, EXCELENTE artículo. Absolutamente claro y bien narrado.

Juan pueblo, Guate :

No me parece el artículo, poco equilibrado... Imaginemos a Puerto Rico, como las demás islas sin social security, sin ciudadanía americana, sin ayuda por desempleo, sin las grandiosas oportunidades que han tenido los boricuas en la tierra de las barras y las estrellas, sin acceso a todas las bondades de la súper potencia. Luego no hablemos de la precariedad de nuestros países latinos y la legislación a favor del 20% que tiene el 80% de la riqueza en promedio de nuestros países. Con todo respeto pero es muy sesgado.

Luis, Miami, Florida:

Impresionante que usted tenga la amplitud en su tiempo, en sus pensamientos y la humanidad en pensar en lo que aquí escribe, con todo lo que esta pasando hoy en México. Lo felicito señor Salinas y gracias por su escrito sobre este tema tan desafortunado para Puerto Rico y "sus millones de ciudadanos americanos".