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Puerto Rico Grieves Over The Loss Of Its Premier Statesman Four Months Short Of His 100th Birthday
Luis A. Ferre Aguayo (1904-2003)
By MARIALBA MARTINEZ
October 30, 2003
Luis A. Ferre Aguayo (1904-2003) died on Oct. 21 from pneumonia, brought on by complications from an operation. He was 99. His wife, Dr. Tiody de Jesus de Ferre; his son, Antonio Luis, and daughter, Rosario; his nephew Adalberto Roig; his grandchildren and great-grandchildren survive him.
Ferre was an engineer (he graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology), a very successful businessman, an art collector, a concert-level pianist, an artist, and a national and local political figure; he founded the islands pro-statehood New Progressive Party (NPP). Most of all, he was recognized and respected for his role as a statesman, his belief in social justice, and his long-term vision for developing the islands economy.
"Don Luis contributions and his public work transcend the political, social, cultural, and business areas," said Empresas Fonalledas President Jaime Fonalledas. "I had the great fortune and privilege of being his friend for many years. I learned a lot from him and continue following his examples. [He was] an architect of dreams; I cant highlight one contribution over another. The best that he has left us is his example."
A man of simple but elegant tastes, Ferre showed enormous talent in diverse fields such as mathematics, technology, the musical and fine arts, and cultural events. His success at the forefront of his familys business between 1925 and 1968 (when he was elected governor of Puerto Rico) was based on the example of his father, Antonio Ferre Bacallao, a Cuban immigrant.
Antonio Ferre Bacallao arrived in Puerto Rico in 1896 after escaping the political bonds that tied his family to the War of Independence raging in Cuba. He lived in San Juan for a year and then moved to Ponce, where he met Puerto Rican Mary Aguayo Casals, whom he married in 1901.
Luis A. Ferre was born in 1904, the second son in a family that would include Jose (the eldest son), Rosario, Herman, Carlos, and Isolina. He was raised in a modest house on Ponces Calle del Leon and grew up watching his mother tend to the towns poorest, offering them food and clothing. Ferre always respected Isolinas religious inclinations and was always by her side, as a brother and as a patron, during her development of the Playa de Ponce project for the poor until her death in 2000.
His passion for music came from his mothers side of the family; his Aunt Josefa Aguayo played the piano. This led to his studies with masters Aristides Chavier Arevalo, a Puerto Rican who had studied in Paris and for a year at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and Federico Ramos. Late in life, Ferre declared that some of his most joyous experiences had been recording with pianist Jesus Maria Sanroma, his college roommate, and playing with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra.
Following elementary and high-school studies in Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland, Ferre was accepted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from which he graduated in 1924 with a bachelors and masters degree in mechanical engineering. He returned to the island in 1925 and began his professional career at his familys iron foundry, Porto Rico Ironworks Inc. (PRI), as a junior engineer.
"[Ferre] was a visionary. He started in the service industry with Porto Rico Ironworks, but there was no doubt he was a mechanical engineer with a high degree of creativity," said former Banco Popular President Hector Ledesma. "I saw him more as an industrialist than a politician. His effectiveness came from his all-around knowledge of how things worked in the business world. Regardless of political boundaries, he was always available to defend Puerto Rico in the U.S. Congress."
Added Banco Popular Chairman & CEO Richard Carrion, "Don Luis was a man of intense significance for Puerto Rico. During his lifetime, he was responsible for the development of several important companies on the island, among them Puerto Rico Cement, the first public company in Puerto Rico and a symbol of the transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. His social conscience always transcended political [affiliation]."
It was during his time at PRI that Ferre began showing his concern for Puerto Ricos workers. By the end of the 1920s, he had implemented several labor measures at the iron foundry. For example, he instituted a Christmas bonus for employees to supplement the cost-of-living increases during those financially difficult times; he created a pension fund; and he provided aid to families in case of a workers incapacity or death. These benefits wouldnt be adopted by the Puerto Rico Legislature until Ferre was elected governor in 1968.
Ferre was committed to public service throughout his life and frequently addressed the need to ensure Puerto Ricos short- and long-term economic development. He spoke about improving the islands infrastructure and initiated major projects such as Las Americas Expressway.
In 1940, Ferre became chief engineer of another family-owned company, Ponce Cement Inc. In 1960, he became vice chairman of the leading cement supplier on the island. By that time, he had become immersed in Puerto Ricos evolving economy, which saw new highway and housing construction projects spreading beyond the rural areas to urban sites such as San Juan.
"The fact that he bought government-owned public corporations and turned them into private companies, modernized them, created job opportunities, and provided a reasonably priced product [cement] so the construction industry could control its costs was an important contribution to the business community and Puerto Ricos development," said Julio Vizcarrondo, partner of Desarrollos Metropolitanos. "Ferre acquired many losing public corporations and made them efficient, modern, and profitable. He had the vision and the opportunity to take these public corporations and turn them into thriving businesses. As governor, he sped up the governments decision-making process. One example of that is how as governor he made the 100-kilometer San Juan-to-Ponce expressway, which had been in the planning stages for years, a reality."
Throughout his life, Ferre had shown great love and support for the arts. He founded the Ponce Public Library in 1937 and established the Luis A. Ferre Foundation in 1950. One of the foundations main objectives was to build a Ponce Museum of Art, which was started in a small wooden house on Ponces Cristina Street with 72 works of art.
In 1962, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation donated a collection of 15 paintings to the museum. This was followed by the purchase of "Flaming June," the painting for which the museum is best known. Fearing a fire would destroy the art collection, Ferre asked Edward Durell Stone to design a new home for the museum on Las Americas Avenue in Ponce. The ground breaking was held on April 23, 1964 and the opening on Dec. 28, 1965. It has since become one of the most renowned museums in the Caribbean and Central America, comparable to some of the most important museums on the U.S. mainland and in Europe.
Ferre becomes third elected governor of Puerto Rico
The 1968 gubernatorial election took place on Nov. 5. It wasnt until 2:00 a.m. on the next day that Ferre was willing to believe he had won, even though Gov. Sanchez Vilella had called at midnight to congratulate him. The NPP won 45% of the vote (390,922) and the Popular Democratic Party 42% (367,901). Also elected by the NPP were Resident Commissioner Jorge L. Cordova Diaz, 12 senators, 26 representatives, and the mayors of 27 municipalities. Garcia Mendezs Republican Statehooders Party, which Ferre had left to form the NPP, received only 4,057 votes.
During a 1999 interview with CARIBBEAN BUSINESS for its 25th Anniversary Millennium Edition, "From Yuca to High-Tech," Ferre said he considered his 1968 victory nothing less than the beginning of true democracy in Puerto Rico because it ended decades of single-party rule.
"The most important things in my life have been being governor of Puerto Rico and eliminating the old tradition that was established by [former Gov. Luis] Muñoz himself of being a boss," Ferre said. "He was the boss of the government and there was no opposition in Puerto Rico. That was the thing I broke to make Puerto Rico a two-party system, a truly democratic society."
At the time, the Economic Development Administration (Fomento) was intensifying its search for capital-intensive companies and raising wages. Between 1960 and 1970, disposable personal income had more than doubled to $3.7 billion, from $1.3 billion a decade earlier. Statistics also showed more people worked in manufacturing than in any other segment; it employed 132,000 people, or 19%, of the work force.
Ferre fulfilled his promises to pursue social justice. He gave teachers, firefighters, and other public employees raises and proposed a law to require private companies to give their employees a Christmas bonus as long as they were earning a profit.
As to the islands infrastructure, Ferres administration immediately set to work on the construction of Las Americas Expressway linking San Juan and Ponce, shortening the four-hour drive between the northern and southern coasts to one hour and 30 minutes. As the highways spread, the San Juan metro area began expanding. Cattle farms in nearby metro areas disappeared to make way for new homes and office buildings, turning Hato Rey into what is known today as the Golden Mile (La Milla de Oro) and integrating adjoining municipalities into the metro area.
Another promise made by Ferre to his constituency was to cut taxes for low-income families, provide free medical services to indigent families, and give plots of government land to poor families. The government was the largest landowner.
Yet, the rapid industrialization and urbanization of Puerto Rico caused an unhealthy reliance on government funds, with personal income from the government (federal and central) rising from 12% in 1950 to 30% in 1970. One key federal aid was the food stamp program, brought to the island in 1971 by Gov. Ferre and then-Resident Commissioner Jorge Cordova Diaz, who had lobbied intensely for the benefit in Washington. In 1974, it became the Cupones de Alimento program. Over the past three decades, it has injected more than $30 billion into the pockets of Puerto Ricos poor families.
Once elected governor, Ferre approved Law 11 in 1970 to begin the planning of what would be called the Luis A. Ferre Fine Arts Center, one of the most important arenas for performances of the best Puerto Rican and international artists. Tourism, also an important component of his political platform, was attended to with the creation of the Tourism Development Co. (TDC) in 1970.
"Don Luis was the first person in Puerto Rico to recognize the importance of tourism," said Miguel Domenech, former Puerto Rico Tourism Co. (PRTC) executive director. Carlos Diago, former deputy executive director of the PRTC, added, "The Economic Development Administration invested between $400,000 and $700,000 annually to promote tourism before the PRTC was founded. Once the agency was formed, [Ferre] started it off with a $1 million budget."
After two dismal years of recession between 1969 and 1970 and the close of five hotels, the TDC developed an aggressive advertising and promotional campaign on the U.S. mainland that considerably increased the number of tourists visiting the island in 1971 and 1972. In 1970, Ferre started the practice of the government buying hotels that were about to close so they wouldnt be converted into condominiums and could be bought by the private sector after the recession had ended. Throughout the recession, which severely affected the U.S. economy, Puerto Ricos remained strong thanks to government infrastructure projects.
Puerto Ricos economic miracle
Between 1950 and 1968, Operation Bootstrap had attracted or promoted the creation of 2,385 companies and 83,824 jobs in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico had become the economic miracle of the Americas and the government, to attract new companies, had approved local tax incentives of all kinds.
One of Ferres first acts as governor was to amend the Industrial Incentives Tax Law of June 13, 1963, which proposed 100% tax exemptions for 10-, 12-, or 17-year periods. Fomento offered alternatives that would extend these tax-free periods in exchange for a percentage of the companys annual earnings.
"As a businessman, Ferre was the driving force behind Empresas Ferre, which stimulated local industries and showed the real capability of Puerto Ricos work force," said Hector Jimenez Juarbe, recently head of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. and former executive vice president of the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association, where Ferre served as vice president during the 1930s. "Ferres support of Section 936 demonstrated that it was an issue that went beyond partisan politics."
Under Teodoro Moscoso during the Muñoz era, Fomento favored attracting light-industry companies that demanded a labor-intensive work force with low wages and little education. But Ferres vision was to change this paradigm because he saw an economic recession in the offing. Companies had begun closing subsidiaries outside the U.S. mainland and local industries were being affected, including construction, tourism, electronics, and, most pointedly, manufacturing, particularly the textile and apparel sectors.
Fomento began looking for companies in the pharmaceutical and metallurgical sectors that were capital-intensive, ready to make a high investment in the island, and strongly resistant to economic fluctuations. Among the companies that established operations in Puerto Rico were pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Abbott Laboratories, Pfizer, Baxter, and Johnson & Johnson.
In 1955, the Commonwealth Oil Refining Co. (Corco) in Peñuelas became one of the largest oil refineries to be established in Puerto Rico. It was followed by Phillips Puerto Rico Core, Peerless Petrochemicals Co., and Caribbean Gulf Refining Co. Satellite companies established themselves near the refineries in Puerto Rico and used the finished petrochemical products to manufacture their own products. With the government a lead investor in the refineries, the islands industrialization marched along at a rapid pace.
In 1970, the government of Venezuela increased the per-barrel price of oil by $0.10 to $0.13 and increased its take of oil sales from 50% to 80%. Since most of the islands refineries bought their oil from Venezuela, this decision had a $50 million to $60 million impact on the companies bottom line. The refineries lost their competitive edge over U.S. mainland oil subsidiaries and were forced to lower their prices and, eventually, to close their operations on the island.
The metallurgical sector brought little success for Puerto Rico. Ferre had hoped for the creation of direct and indirect jobs and the possible construction of an electrolytic refinery. He had also encouraged Ponce Mining and Cobre Caribe to establish mining operations on the island.
Opposition to the mining industry came from various sectors such as environmental groups and the opposition parties. But it was the governments economic participation in the mining projects that brought about the most problems, with some demanding the government not invest in the project but still earn 20% of the sales. By 1972, negotiations had been suspended and all hope of profiting from this sector had died.
In late 1970, Ferre named Manuel A. Casiano Fomento administrator. Construction of new roads, manufacturing plants, housing, hospitals, dams, and aqueduct facilities was begun and minimum wages continued to increase. By fiscal year 1973, the sum of federal funds for the island had increased to $774 million from $580 million in fiscal 1971, with new allocations from the Education, Social Services, Health, and Labor departments.
Ferre amended the Tax Incentives Law a second time to extend by 10 years the administrations industrial development program and attract more companies to the island. While he asked the U.S. Congress to exclude Puerto Rico from a further minimum-wage increase to avoid damaging the islands economy, by the end of his term he had granted more tax exemptions during his first three years in office than former Gov. Sanchez Vilella had during his four years in office.
In 1971, the textile and apparel industry overcame the economic recession of the late 60s. Along with other manufacturing sectors, such as sugar, rum, tobacco, chemical, machinery, footwear, petroleum, metal, and paper products, exports grew 25.2% from $1.7 million in fiscal year 1972 to $2.2 million in fiscal 1973. In calendar year 1972, the unemployment rate averaged 10.2%, the lowest in the islands history. Gross national product (GNP) was 12.5%, a figure surpassed only by the 12.8% GNP in 1963. By the end of 1972, the islands economy had completely turned around.
Putting up a fight for agriculture
Since his early days in politics, Ferre had felt agriculture still had a chance and a place in Puerto Ricos economy. From 1958 to 1968, however, 128,000 cuerdas (one cuerda equals 0.97 acres) of sugarcane were abandoned, which affected the planting and harvesting of sugar, coffee, tobacco, and minor fruits. Income generated from agriculture fell to $172 million in 1968 from $226.4 million in 1962. And the people willing to work in the fields were goneearning just $0.65 per hour, they preferred the urban areaswith an average 10,000 agriculture workers lost annually from 1950 to 1968.
In 1969, Ferre signed Laws 68 and 69 assigning $124 million to the agricultural industry. Of this amount, $24 million was destined for distribution to the coffee industry over a six-year period, with the goal of producing 450,000 quintales (one quintal equals 100 pounds) in a 60,000-cuerda area. The remaining $100 million was for the sugar industry over a five-year period. Ferre also signed Law 70, which exempted manufacturing companies from paying taxes on property or equipment.
Other laws signed by Ferre came about from his promises to his followers. Minimum wages would rise over a three-year period to $1 per hour for agricultural workers, in an effort to attract people back to the industry. Whenever he was asked why he was investing so much in an industry that seemed doomed, Ferre said it was a principal source of jobs for a generation that only knew agriculture and of revenue for the government. In addition, it didnt need great sums of money to operate or import raw material, contrary to industries promoted by Fomento.
Ferre also reminded detractors that the sugar industry provided molasses to the cattle and dairy industries and to refreshment, candy, and rum manufacturing companies. Nevertheless, five months before the 1969 sugar harvest, only five of 17 sugar plantations on the island were operating and industry losses ranged in the millions. To prevent the closure of the Guanica plantation, the largest in Puerto Rico, the government decided to purchase its assets for $3 million.
When the owners of Guayamas Central Aguirre also decided to pull out of the island, Ferres administration refused the proposed selling price for the plantation and mentioned the possibility of expropriation. News came out that the government had bought land at higher prices than the owners of Central Aguirre were asking and negative publicity ensued, to the point that the U.S. Senate said it would investigate whether the sale was unconstitutional.
The case went to court and the sale finally went through. The land sold for three times the amount the Puerto Rico government had bid, although it was still $50 million less than what the company had asked. The 1971 harvest was the final straw, with approximately $160 million in losses. For the first time in its history, Puerto Rico had to import molasses from the Antilles to provide to those industries that needed it. By 1972, the sugar industry had all but disappeared.
Ferre fulfilled many of his wishes. As a statesman, he promoted social justice and the development of our islands infrastructure. He strongly supported the growth of manufacturing in capital-intensive industries, commerce, business, agriculture, and tourism during his tenures as governor and Senate president.
As a patron of the arts, he supported numerous causes and supported their proliferation and exposure to the masses. His legacy includes the Luis A. Ferre Fine Arts Center and his anonymous patronage of many local artists. He was also very generous, personally giving hundreds of scholarships to promising students of limited means.
"Through his businesses, such as Puerto Rican Cement, Porto Rico Ironworks, and many others, including a development company, don Luis created dozens of jobs a day and simplified construction," said Empresas Diaz Chairman Arturo Diaz Sr. "His businesses and the jobs he created as governor helped Puerto Ricos development."
CARIBBEAN BUSINESS Associate Editors Evelyn Guadalupe-Fajardo and Jose L. Carmona, and Staff Reporters Luis A. Ramos and Lorraine Blasor contributed to this story.
A Visionary Family
By MARIALBA MARTINEZ
October 30, 2003
After escaping the War for Independence in his native Cuba, in 1896 Antonio Bacallao Ferre, the father of Luis A. Ferre, settled in San Juan, where he worked at the first iron foundry on the island, the Sobrinos de Portilla Foundry. After learning that his uncle, Luis Bacallao, had settled in Ponce, Bacallao Ferre moved to the southern town where his family would establish roots.
One of Ferre Bacallaos first jobs was at the Serralles familys sugar manufacturing plant in the Dominican Republic. After a year, he returned to Puerto Rico and started a business representing various manufacturers of sugar and coffee equipment. Although he lacked a mechanical engineering degree, by 1904 (the year son Luis A. Ferre was born) Ferre Bacallao had been able to call on his business experience to turn Santa Isabels Central Florida into a modern plantation.
Ferre Bacallao was recognized as an experienced installer of industrial equipment and machinery. He provided sugar and coffee plantations with irrigation systems and railroad track and wagon systems to carry products between plantations in the south.
In 1910, Ferre Bacallao partnered with J.A. Merson, a Canadian firm, to create Ferre & Merson, a company specializing in machinery for sugar plantations. The partnership bought two small sugar plantations in Adjuntas and Jayuya. Ferre Bacallao wished to become a sole family-business owner, however, so in 1918 he sold his participation in Ferre & Merson and founded Porto Rico Ironworks Inc., an iron foundry that began operating in 1919.
Porto Rico Ironworks was the precursor of the familys business empire. Ferre Bacallao anxiously awaited the return of his son Luis as a mechanical engineer, while Luis mother, Mary, continued instilling in him a great love of music, particularly the piano. Before returning home, Ferre sent his father an architectural rendering of improvements to the machinery used to crush sugarcane at Porto Rico Ironworks.
In 1925, Ferre returned home with a bachelors and masters degree in mechanical engineering and worked side by side with his father. A great opportunity presented itself to the family in the 1940s, when four manufacturing plants established by the government were put up for sale in 1948. None of the companies, except the cement manufacturing plant, were making money.
Nevertheless, the Ferre family bought all four plants for $10.5 million. In 1950, the family added a second cement manufacturer, Puerto Rico Cement. Both cement plants would be consolidated into Puerto Rican Cement Inc., the islands first public company.
As a boy, Empresas Vassallo President Salvador "Chiry" Vassallo met Luis A. Ferre during the latters campaign for mayor of Ponce. "Don Luis was a very determined person in politics and business," he recalled. "What most motivated me was his perseverance, which drove him to be such a great figure.
"The familys economic legacy is huge as well," continued Vassallo. "Not only did the Ferre brothers establish Empresas Ferre, but the family also established an apparel store called Mole Industries and a glass manufacturing plant in Florida and Venezuela. Wherever the family owned businesses, the family name was recognized."
In 2002, Puerto Rican Cement was sold to Mexicos Cemex Inc. Today, the Ferre family businesses are mainly in the media industry. These include El Nuevo Dia, which started out as a regional newspaper, called El Dia, bought by Empresas Ferre in 1948. It moved to San Juan and became a daily in the late 60s. The management of the paper has passed from son Antonio Luis to his grandchildren. Daily newspaper Primera Hora was established in the late 90s, and the family has other businesses related to the printing industry.
Ferre enters the political arena
By MARIALBA MARTINEZ
October 30, 2003
In 1951, Luis A. Ferre was asked to be part of the Constitutional Convention, composed of 92 leaders from across the island, which would draw up Puerto Ricos constitution. Ferres key goal in the convention was to make sure the constitution would reflect the islands unresolved relationship as a commonwealth of the U.S. In 1952, the constitution was approved.
That same year, Ferre won a seat in the House of Representatives. He had lost the race for Ponce mayor in 1940 and for resident commissioner in 1948. He placed his business participation in a trust and became one of seven statehood party members in the House, co-sharing the minority speakers position with veteran Rep. Leopoldo Figueroa Carreras.
Between 1940 and 1956, the Economic Development Administrations (Fomento) Operation Bootstrap was credited with a 15% increase in exports, reaching a record $429 million. In one year, 85 manufacturing plants were established on the island, with 445 plants operating under the plan. Manufacturing salaries were also up $0.10 to $0.12 per hour, the same increase on the U.S. mainland.
One of Ferres first acts as a legislator was to present bills aimed at solving social and economic problems. He lobbied on behalf of the farmers under the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration so they could keep their land. He also petitioned to increase the islands minimum wage, have private companies give employees a Christmas bonus, and have the U.S. Housing Authority sell public housing to its residents.
In 1956, Ferre ran for governor for the first time but lost to Luis Muñoz Marin. He took comfort in the 172,832 votes earned by the Republican Statehood Party, which displaced the Independence Party to third place. In 1958, he felt confident enough to re-enter the political arena after Alaska was admitted into the union, hoping Puerto Rico could be next.
During the next two years, he vigorously pursued statehood for Puerto Rico on the U.S. mainland. The Republican National Partys commitment in 1960 to support the right of Puerto Ricans to ask for statehood was a great accomplishment for him, despite once again losing the elections to Luis Muñoz Marin. The Republican Statehood Partys votes increased by 7% to 252,364 votes in 1960 compared to 171,838 votes in 1956.
After the 1960 elections, Gov. Muñoz Marin decided to retire from political life and chose Rafael Sanchez Vilella, secretary of state at the time, as his successor. The Republican Statehood Party lost the 1964 elections, although it gained 2.5% more votes.
Before the 1968 elections, the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) was divided into factions when Luis Muñoz Marin, disenchanted with Gov. Sanchez Vilella, chose Luis Negron Lopez to run for governor on the PDP ticket. Sanchez Vilella was forced to create a new party called the Peoples Party, the first offshoot since the PDP had been formed.
Meanwhile, the Republican Statehood Party had also been experiencing internal strife. Ferre had been considering running for governor, but he disagreed with party member Miguel A. Garcia Mendezs objectives and decided to start another statehood party.
In 1967, Ferre incorporated the Association of United Statehooders. Other groups joined the party, such as Citizens Pro State 51, PDP Statehooders, Stateside Moral Party, and Pro-American Reformists. The first action was to campaign for a plebiscite organized by the U.S. Congress to vote for the islands political status. The PDP got 60% of the vote, the Association of United Statehooders 39%, and the Independence Movement Party 1%.
Ferre and his followers then formed a new party, called the New Progressive Party (NPP), during a constitutional assembly in Corozal. This was followed by a larger event in Carolina to sign up members. The NPP was inscribed in the islands municipalities in time for the 1968 elections.
In February 1968, the party held its first general assembly, which had a perfect attendance of 1,042 delegates who chose Ferre as NPP president. His son Antonio Luis Ferre Rangel was elected national delegate to Washington. In June, a nominations assembly was held in Ponce, where Ferre was elected the NPP candidate who would run for governor.
On Nov. 5, 1968, Ferre won 45% of the popular vote and became Puerto Ricos third elected governor. After losing to PDP gubernatorial candidate Rafael Hernandez Colon in 1972, he ran for senator and won; he served as Senate president from 1977 to 1984.
"Ferre was one of the first to address social needs of employees, including the establishment of the Christmas bonus and the federal minimum-wage law, which directly improved workers standards of living," said Doral President Salomon Levis. "An important contribution was providing direct access [through highway development] to remote parts of Puerto Rico for easier commercial and industrial expansion."
Jeronimo Esteve, chairman & CEO of Bella International Corp., added, "Don Luis taught us that you could be a great businessman and serve Puerto Rico from any political position, with honesty and love for its citizens and a willingness to serve all. He was the creator of numerous public works and social justice projects, such as the Luis A. Ferre Expressway and the medical center, and was responsible for bringing the federal food stamps program to Puerto Rico. His businesses allowed thousands of Puerto Ricans to have a place to work."
A National Republican Party member since the early 1970s, Ferre was a delegate to the Republican National Convention through 1996 and state chairman of the National Republican Party of Puerto Rico from 1975 until his death in October 2003. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush granted Ferre the Medal of Freedom, the highest award that can be bestowed on a U.S. citizen.
This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.