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An Open Letter from Power 4 Puerto Rico to 2020 Candidates

Governor Rossello has told 2020 candidates that he expects a strong statement in favor of Puerto Rico statehood from any candidate who wants support from Puerto Rico. Power 4 Puerto Rico, a coalition of political organizations, is taking it a step further.

In an open letter to candidates in the 2020 presidential race, Power 4 Puerto Rico “strongly urge[s]” them to publicly support the policy priorities listed below:

A Marshall Plan

“A Marshall Plan-type mobilization to fully rebuild and recover after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.” Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), both 2020 candidates, proposed a $146 billion “Marshall Plan” for Puerto Rico in 2017. Instead, Puerto Rico was allotted less in disaster recovery funds than the affected States, and has received less than half of what was allotted.

“Our federal government has a moral and legal responsibility to help the 3.2 million residents of Puerto Rico – and the hundreds of thousands of evacuees who were forced to leave the Island after the storm – recover from the worst natural disaster in modern U.S. history,” the letter says. “More than 3,000 Puerto Ricans died as a result of Hurricane Maria and more than one and a half years later, the Island continues to suffer due to neglect and often mistreatment by the federal government.”

The letter is clear in its demands for more federal funds for the Island.

“Full participation of Island residents in critical federal anti-poverty programs.”

Puerto Rico, though in greater need than any of the 50 states, receives much less in anti-poverty funds. Between block grant programs that cap the amount given for food stamps and healthcare and restrictions on tax credits, residents of Puerto Rico are treated far from equally in these programs:

“Economic tools”

The letter lists a number of economic actions it wants to see, including debt reduction and the end of the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board. More specific requests:

    • Jones Act exemption
    • “Fix how federal tax reform law treats the Island”
    • “Tax incentives for job creation, along with improved labor standards”
    • Support for small business
    • Support for evacuees living in the States

“A recent report by the Center for the New Economy (CNE) revealed that 90% of federal disaster relief contracts after Hurricane María have gone to firms in the continental U.S. instead of Puerto Rico-based firms,” the letter states. “This needs to change immediately.”

Status decision

“Recognition of the right to self-determination of the Puerto Rican people along with a permanent and self-sustained, inclusive, fair and transparent process to end 121 years of U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico,” is a high priority in the letter.

Puerto Rico has been a territory of the United States for more than a century. In the last two referenda held on the status question, Puerto Rico’s voters have chosen statehood, but Congress has failed to take action.

“For too long, U.S. politicians of both parties have dodged the issue with empty platitudes and no meaningful commitments,” says the letter. “After 5 non-binding plebiscite votes have been held in Puerto Rico, the lack of concrete action or direction by the federal government is untenable.”

Power 4 Puerto Rico wants presidential candidates to “support a binding process that offers full participation to all sides of this debate and commits the federal government to abide by its outcome.” They also want “the 5 million Puerto Ricans who live in the diaspora, many of whom were displaced by economic downturns and misguided U.S. policies in Puerto Rico,” to “have a say in the type of relationship their Island home should have with the federal government.”

Input from the diaspora could change the outcome of the next referendum, since as Rep. Jose Serrano puts it, “It’s easy to be against statehood when you live in a state.” Independence is not a popular option among people who would actually have to live through it, but it is more popular in the States. People of Puerto Rican heritage living in the States outnumber those who still live on the Island.

The letter and its supporting document conclude, “Puerto Rico faces an incredibly difficult road to recovery. In addition to over $70 billion in debt and a crumbling infrastructure, the Island and its people are now suffering from health and humanitarian crises in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, compounded by over 12 years of economic depression. Without additional action at the federal level, it would take a generation or longer for Puerto Rico to rebuild and its people to finally thrive.”

The organizations signing the letter included these:

Alianza for Progress/Florida
Asociación de Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM), PA
Americas for Conservation and the Arts
Bay Area Alliance for a Sustainable Puerto Rico, Leadership Committee
Bay Area Boricuas
Boricua Vota
Boricuas de Corazón, Inc
Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora
Catalino Productions
Diáspora en Resistencia
El Puente
Faith in Florida
Fort Washington Collegiate Church
Green Latinos
Hispanic Federation
Iniciativa Acción Puertorriqueña
Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center
La Tertulia Boricua of San Francisco Bay Area
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Jangueo Boricua
Misión Boricua
National Boricua Human Rights Network
National Conference of Puerto Rican Women
National Puerto Rican Agenda
Organize Florida
Our Revolution Puerto Rico
Parranda Puerto Rico
Puerto Ricans in Action (Los Angeles)
Puerto Rican Alliance
Puerto Rican Alliance of Florida
Puerto Rican Women in Action
Puerto Rico Advocacy Group
Puerto Rico Connect
The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago
Women’s March – FL

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