Puerto Rico is waiting on decisions from the federal government: decisions on funding for emergency relief, decisions on debt reduction, decisions on a possible continued waiver of the Jones Act, and, as always, for decisions on Puerto Rico’s political status.
Meanwhile, grassroots efforts are springing up across the nation. Many organizations are helping with fundraising, while others are promoting political action directed toward encouraging Congress to take action.
- Voices for Puerto Rico is a group of “artists and influencers” living in the States who are raising funds to be distributed in Puerto Rico by charitable organizations on the Island. The first push has collected $140,185 for RS Events for Life, an organization in Guaynabo which will pass the funds along to local nonprofit agencies. Voices for Puerto Rico plans to focus on the needs of rural and geographically disconnected communities, which received much less help immediately after the landfall of Hurricane Maria than did larger communities. They will also work to support alternative energy and cultural events designed to improve mental and physical health within those communities.
- Jubilee USA, an organization which was involved in Congressional hearings on #PROMESA, is calling for forgiveness of Puerto Rico’s debt. They have also been supporting “comprehensive debt restructuring and austerity prevention” in Puerto Rico as a necessity to protect the residents and to work toward a sustainable future for the territory. Jubilee USA Executive Director Eric LeCompte made a statement saying,
“Before the hurricanes hit Puerto Rico, 60 percent of its kids lived in poverty and we already felt the island’s financial crisis was deteriorating into a humanitarian crisis. After the hurricanes, we are facing absolute devastation made worse by the island’s debt crisis… Last year Congress passed emergency debt crisis legislation for Puerto Rico. Because of Congressional action, the largest bankruptcy process in US history is currently underway in Puerto Rico. That bankruptcy process can take into account the impacts of the hurricane and now provide even greater debt relief for the island.” Jubilee USA is asking people in the States to contact their legislators.
- VAMOS4PR, which describes itself as “a network of stateside labor, community, cultural, and human rights groups committed to fighting for a better future for Puerto Rico and empowering the Puerto Rican diaspora,” is asking for website visitors to share their stories to help reach out to Congress. VAMOS4PR is also collecting donations for disaster relief and sponsoring marches and other community actions in towns across the country. They also offer graphics for people to use to share a “Relieve, Rebuild” message.
- Unite for Puerto Rico is holding a rally in Washington, D.C. this week, calling on Congress to exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act permanently, to take a “Marshall Plan” approach to Puerto Rico’s future needs, and to provide immediate “substantial” funding for disaster relief. The organization’s website declares them to be “the voice in the mainland for our family and friends suffering in Puerto Rico.” While there is little information about the group online, the Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony National Committee has called on members to support the effort. “Show your support wearing BLUE, RED or WHITE, bring your flags and hand held signs,” wrote Sam Rodriguez in an email to the group.
These are just a sampling of the grassroots organizations currently working for Puerto Rico. Each one is unique, but all seek to unite the diaspora — and other mainland supporters — in using their political or social power to support Puerto Rico.