Political Discrimination as a Facilitator of Corruption: The Case of Puerto Rico

Elizabeth Pérez Chiqués, Profesora Investigadora Titular de la División de Administración Pública del CIDE, escribió el artículo Political Discrimination as a Facilitator of Corruption: The Case of Puerto Rico en el Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies.



How do informal practices in personnel management relate to corruption? The meritbased civil service system in Puerto Rico is systematically abused for political purposes. Practices, such as the management of career employees based on their political affiliation, have become normalized. Additionally, formal features of the personnel system, such as political appointments and trust employees, have also been abused for corrupt purposes. Using the trends in public personnel administration of career and trust employees as the background, this essay analyzes two cases to understand how politicized personnel practices relate to other forms of government failure and corruption: first, the administrative and political order of erasing thousands of uninvestigated child abuse referrals before an electoral event, and second, a grand-scale corruption case involving an influential political fundraiser and multiple government agencies. While the first case illustrates some of the consequences of the political management of career employees, the second case features elite networks involving government officials and government contractors and their exploitation of public resources. This essay draws from in-depth interviews with public employees and official documents related to the selected cases. The analysis ultimately shows how political-discriminatory dynamics in personnel management-both legal and illegal-allow political parties or external elements to gain control over—and extract resources from-public employees and the bureaucracy with dire social consequences.