Urgent need for ownership of the Mutual Aid Center building: Transfer Now!
The social work carried out from the building where the Mutual Aid Center (CAM-Caguas) is located could be threatened due to a discrepancy in the ownership of the structure located between Vizcarrondo Street and Baldorioty de Castro Street. The building is known by many people in Caguas as "the former Social Security", and had been abandoned for decades.
In 2017, after Hurricane Maria, the non-profit organizations Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico and Urbe Apie, along with neighbors from Caguas, began distributing food and other supplies to help people in need after the hurricane's natural and social disaster. That's how CAM Caguas was born.
The takeover of this abandoned building began sometime during the month of November 2017, when it was clear that we would need a larger space. It was not the time to ask, nor was it the time to ask for permission. On behalf of the hungry, we took a chance by assuming that it was better to ask for forgiveness later. That is why we consider the use of this building an act of good faith in favor of the poor and the people in general, who are in need of social services that improve their quality of life.
The building has always had a social purpose
According to residents of Caguas, this building on Vizcarrondo Street has a history in favor of the people. An older neighbor tells us that when it was only half the size of what it is today, it was a medical office that provided services to women.
For decades the building housed the Social Security's Regional Offices, so it was frequented not only by residents of Caguas but also by residents of the entire Eastern zone who had Caguas as the main town for government affairs. This was the case until its total abandonment during the last two decades.
From the first day we entered to rescue this building, we sought to know everything related to the property. So we learned that at some point it belonged to Doral Bank, and that after this bank went bankrupt in 2015, its properties were passed, as the law says, into the hands of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). And that was it. For 3 and a half years, there was no update on the Property Register, nor the CRIM. No neighbor has ever met an owner. The FDIC was unaware of the property. In the municipality of Caguas they knew even less.
Until the determined work of the Center for Habitat Reconstruction (CRH for its acronym in Spanish), investigating page by page in the land registry, found the information that we have today: The Morgan Reed Group, a Gringo investment company of real estate brokers that came to Puerto Rico for the Law 22 discounts, bought this building in 2015. It did so to the value of $108 thousand dollars, only a quarter of the value of $400 thousand recorded in previous appraisals. Now they want to sell it for $360 thousand dollars, and thus earn $250 thousand, without moving a finger, without investing anything, without even taking out a meter of garbage.
This is how these disaster investors operate: they buy cheap buildings taking advantage of poverty, corruption and disasters, using their high economic power as an advantage. That way, they consolidate their power on our island, to then displace communities and generate millions in profits for their businesses.
The Morgan Reed is one of the main companies behind the purchase of closed schools, and also one of the companies with the most interest in the so-called Opportunity Zones, according to research by the Center for Investigative Journalism.
The Opportunity Zones are part of a federal tax reform program designed to benefit multimillion-dollar companies by giving them reductions of up to 37% in the money they allegedly “invest” in “low-income communities.” Although in reality we all know that this is a way to make those who are already rich richer, while impoverishing those of us who are already impoverished. The trick is that they declared 98% of Puerto Rico an Opportunity Zone, while in the United States that number does not exceed 25%, practically making Puerto Rico a great low-tax zone of exclusive benefits for the foreign investor.
It's not for sale!
For that and many more reasons, the building where CAM-Caguas is located IS NOT FOR SALE! Our demand is the immediate transfer of ownership of the building to the non-profit organization Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico, Inc. The monetary investments that have been made cleaning and remodeling the structure should serve to consider the building paid for. And not to mention the human work that hundreds of people have put in!
This building was abandoned long enough to be a public nuisance, and it is not, only thanks to the inordinate work of the CAM and its volunteers.
From this site, more than one hundred thousand plates of food were distributed after Hurricane Maria. When the Covid-19 pandemic exploded, the needs of more than 25 thousand people were met, through the Compras Solidarias Nutritional Assistance Program. For four years, health treatments have been offered to thousands of people. The building, in turn, is the headquarters of Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico, and houses the Urban Rootz Alliance Dance Academy. All kinds of community meetings are held on its premises, and much more is coming. The CAM is a real community social center open to all people, and what belongs to everyone cannot be sold.
We invite you to sign the transfer petition and participate in the activities in support of this cause. If you have ever received a plate of food or groceries, or if you simply support us, help us by spreading the word. We do not rule out mobilizing via picket lines or protests.
So that the Urban Area of Caguas can continue to have the Compras Solidarias program: Ownership Transfer Now! To stop displacement: Ownership Transfer now! For the development of the Súper Solidario Coop cooperative supermarket: Ownership Transfer Now! For people to have more and better social services: Immediate Ownership Transfer Now!rs, that works well on almost every site.