Puerto Rico governor calls for diaspora political action in Florida
SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares invited Puerto Ricans residing in the state of Florida to become an active political force in the United States that favors their island homeland.
“In Puerto Rico, we unfortunately have second-class citizenship. Those of us who live on the island do not have political power. But those Puerto Ricans who live here [in Florida] do,” the governor said in a written statement.
During a town hall meeting at the Kissimmee Civic Center, the island’s chief executive highlighted the importance of Puerto Ricans organizing politically to ensure Puerto Rico receives fair and equitable treatment to other jurisdictions.
In addition, Rosselló explained that “those 5.6 million Puerto Ricans around the United States–and the over one million of us who live here in Florida have political power, have the ability to create change and the opportunity to do things well, not just for the island, but doing things well for yourself too.”
In the face of upcoming midterm congressional elections, the governor invited all Puerto Ricans living in the mainland U.S. to use their voice(s) and vote(s) as a powerful tool of democracy for Puerto Rico’s benefit.
In the past few days, the governor also visited Washington, D.C., where he has been emphatic about Puerto Rico’s need to receive equal treatment in the supplementary aid package to other jurisdictions suffering through the recoveries from the onslaught of natural disasters.
“Hurricane Maria brought a lot of adversity, but there was also a positive side. Before the storm, only about 25% of [U.S.] citizens knew that Puerto Ricans are also [U.S.] citizens. After the storm, around 95% of them know we are their brothers [and sisters], that we fight in the same wars, that we have the same citizenship, for which we deserve fair and equal treatment,” the governor added.
Present at the event were Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) and Kissimmee Mayor José Álvarez.
Scott spoke about efforts he is making with the governor of Puerto Rico and Congress to welcome Puerto Ricans who traveled to Florida temporarily, so they can prosper and return to the island.
In addition, Scott thanked Rosselló “for his hard work and dedication. The first time you meet the [P.R.] governor, what you feel about him is that he cares about people. He takes personally what is happening to everyone on the island. He is someone who will be there and work hard. I admire him for his tenacity and dedication to the people of Puerto Rico.”
Sen. Nelson, who shared his experiences about visiting Puerto Rico after Maria’s devastation, emphasized Puerto Ricans’ resilience in the face of adversity.
“We have a long way to go. And while we are helping the island recover, we also need to ensure that we are dealing with the thousands and thousands of Puerto Ricans who have come here,” the Florida senator said.
Rep. Soto stressed that “we need unity and action now instead of fights and division. We need leadership from the White House and your voices to make this happen.”
Meanwhile, the Kissimmee mayor told Rosselló that “the city of Kissimmee is with you. We have received and we still welcome everyone here with open arms.”
The event was moderated by Carlos Mercader, executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington, D.C.
Earlier in the day, Rosselló met in central Florida with Puerto Rican leaders to discuss efforts to recover and rebuild Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria.
In addition, the governor pointed out the urgency of identifying alternatives that help the island mitigate the impact of the recently approved federal tax reform.