Heads of Puerto Rico co-ops join to form new association
The heads of cooperatives from all over Puerto Rico have come together to create the Association of Co-op Presidents and Elected Leaders Inc., which aims to defend the best interests of local cooperative members, estimated at a million.
This new organization brings together members who were elected by their peers to compose the boards of directors and committees of their respective co-ops.
These people are not co-ops employees but work voluntarily during the term for which they were elected.
In an assembly held Jan. 2, 2022, at Caribe Co-op in Guayanilla, 29 cooperative leaders from different towns such as Guayanilla, Salinas, Villalba, Arroyo, Morovis and Manatí elected their board of directors.
Some of the elected members are: Evaristo M. Toledo, chairman of Caribe Co-op, who was elected president; Orlando Torres, president of the Padre MacDonald Cooperative in Ponce, who will serve as vice president; Luis Guillermo León, an attorney for cooperatives, who will be secretary; and Alberto L. Martín, who will act as treasurer.
The board of directors is rounded out by José Raúl Cepeda, Nancy Arroyo, Raúl Colón, Sandra Pacheco, and Samuel Borreli.
Toledo noted that the importance of this new group is that “it is the first of its kind on the island.”
It has been shaped to be a body that will give a voice to the co-op members through the representatives they elected by secret ballot, he said.
“We’re going to wake up the sleeping giant of cooperativism with more than 200 co-ops and 1 million members who are voters,” said Toledo.
The association has taken on the task working to defend co-op members in the face of decisions by the government and the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico that may be work against them.
“The government has imposed on us a regulator that doesn’t know how to regulate, such as the Public Corporation for the Supervision and Insurance of Puerto Rico Cooperatives (COSSEC, in Spanish), which in the past hurt us by recommending buying junk bonds that today are a dark spot in our finances,” said Toledo.
“And we also have the Fiscal Control Board, a regulator with absolute powers that threatens to put us against the wall with new regulations and restrictions,” added Toledo.
In addition, the new entity aspires to work hand in hand with the Association of Cooperative Executives — which is made up of the executive presidents and other managers hired by the co-op boards of directors — and the Puerto Rico Co-op League, which represents this economic model as an institution.