Some recent wealthy investors and entrepreneurs from the crypto scene are currently traveling to Puerto Rico to rebuild a country recently destroyed by Hurricane Maria. This also conveniently eliminates the need to pay US taxes, as Puerto Rico has no federal income taxes, withholding taxes or annoying corporate taxes. In addition, they can even avoid giving up their American citizenship.
Many traveled to San Juan after the crypto boom last year to buy up real estate there. The project, which was originally known as “Puertopia”, was renamed “Sol”, as Puertopia translates into Latin as “Eternal Playground for Boys” — but a somewhat questionable name.
They want to show the world what a crypto-future might look like
For the time being, the Puertopians have found refuge in the convent, a 20,000 square foot hotel in the center of the old town, which remained more or less unscathed by the hurricane. Until they find land they want to buy, they rent the entire hotel.
Brock Pierce, 37, is the leader of the movement and has been on the island since December. He is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, director of the Bitcoin Foundation, and a notable (though controversial) personality in the crypto community.
When asked about the priorities of the project, he answers:
“Compassion, respect, financial transparency”
However, he is also worried that people will think that the project is just a few empires that want to flee their tax liability.
“I’m worried that people will misinterpret our actions.”
Matt Clemenson, co-founder of Lottery.com, which uses blockchain technology in lotteries, says:
“We are benevolent capitalists and build a benevolent economy. Puerto Rico is this hidden gem, this enchanted island that was constantly overlooked and maltreated. Maybe we can make it better 500 years later.“
Many in Puerto Rico welcome this worldwide interest in their country and do not mind the attractive taxes that attract the rich as long as they spend their money on the island.
Not everyone in Puerto Rico is excited about the influx of the newly rich
Rob Rill, a Puerto Rican tax expatriate and hedge fund manager who runs a social group for those using local tax breaks, reports:
“They call me and say that they will buy 250,000 acres so they can start their own city, literally start a city in Puerto Rico to have their own crypto world. I can not participate in that.“
Andria Satz, 33, who works for the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, also sees an uncomfortable contrast between the way rich outsiders and the natives are treated:
“We are the tax playground of the rich. We are the test environment for experiments. Outsiders get tax exemptions and locals can not get permits.“
But as long as the local government is receptive to the crypto arrivals, they are unlikely to move, and this ensures Puerto Rico’s crypto future for the time being. In fact, the Puertopians say they are on the verge of receiving local government approval to set up their own cryptocurrency bank.
Will “sol” become a reality and thus a haven for investors and enthusiasts of cryptocurrencies worldwide? The next years will show us.
Marko Vidrih @cryptomarks
Image via Bloomberg.com