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Puerto Rico Finds Hope In Crypto, Cannabis, And Nicolas Cage

Hurricane Maria had a disastrous effect on Puerto Rico, and even though the one-year anniversary of the natural disaster is on September 20th, the island has yet to fully recover.

A third of the island’s homes were destroyed, and 3,000 deaths resulted from the storm. Puerto Rico’s economy was already struggling prior to the hurricane but is now worse than ever before.

Puerto Rico’s gross national product decreased approximately 7 percent in the 12 months ending on June 30. The government’s access to Wall Street money, economic downturn, and big spending led to a $74 billion bankruptcy.

In the ’90s and early 2000s, Puerto Rico was a mecca for pharmaceutical companies thanks to a federal tax provision, but most of the companies left after a phaseout of the law in 2006.

To help the island’s recovery, Governor Ricardo Rosselló has turned in part to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. Rosselló created a blockchain advisory council to help promote this industry. Puerto Ricans are not entirely on board with blockchain, which some residents have called crypto-colonialism.

“Taking advantage of our vulnerability, these saviors have come to change our lives and bring us hope,” says Alex Aguilera, 49, a publicist who opposes the blockchain movement. “This has happened many times throughout history, and each time, under the weight of these calamities, we’ve fallen back on our low self-esteem and opened the door to people like this.”

Despite harsh criticism regarding cryptocurrencies in Puerto Rico, the governor insists that “Innovation has a critical role in the development of our economy.”

Rosselló is also using government resources to invest in the medical marijuana industry and in film production. Puerto Rico’s craft beer scene is also heating up, becoming the first region to embrace the Independent Craft Brewer Seal with 100 percent approval.

“We want to put some of our biggest bets in some of these areas and direct incentives toward what has the greatest return,” stated Rosselló.

In July, Rosselló rented government-owned land to British entrepreneur Keith St. Clair to make a $70 million movie studio. St. Clair, the filmmakers, talent and other staff, will also receive tax credits while shooting on the island. Writes Bloomberg:

The governor’s office projects the 180,000-square-foot Puerto Rico Film District will create more than 1,325 direct and indirect jobs, plus 350 in the construction phase. It will have sound studios, dressing rooms, conference areas, and editing and postproduction capacity. The government said it hoped to build on the $256 million in income the industry generated in the previous 18 months.

Movie stars like Nicolas Cage and Anne Hathaway have filmed in Puerto Rico recently, pointing at a lucrative investment to help the island bounce back from this crisis.

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