Appeal to Puerto Rican diaspora intensifies amid post-hurricane crisis
SAN JUAN – While Puerto Rico continues its struggle to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, commonwealth House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez reiterated his appeal to the Puerto Rican diaspora to take a leading role in the island’s recovery.
While maintaining his belief in the ability of Puerto Ricans living stateside to influence federal officials, Méndez announced Tuesday that the newly created Special Total Commission of the House will establish workshops with the diaspora in order to request funds.
“[We want] the pressing needs that exist in Puerto Rico to be known throughout the nation. Puerto Ricans in the states have that power, they are more and more and we are going to use that in favor of our people,” he said, referring to the millions of Puerto Ricans who make up the diaspora.
Méndez explained that the initiative will last for the next four weeks, until December, when the U.S. Congress is expected to consider the approval of a long-term-recovery aid package that should be “adjusted to the new reality” on the island
To address the crisis the major hurricane left in its wake, which to this day has kept 70% of the island in the dark and another 20% without water service, the speaker said the package approved in Congress must address the island’s healthcare and home reconstruction.
The Special Commission will establish communication channels with several organizations that group Puerto Ricans in states such as New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to agree on a program of visits and calls to members of Congress.
“Puerto Rico needs an aid package to restart our economy, which took a devastating blow due to the impact of this historic hurricane,” he said. “We’re going to get organized and we are going to outline a plan of action, to exert pressure at state capitals and at a national level.”
This new appeal to the diaspora is not the government’s first. A little more than two weeks after María, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares urged Puerto RIcans residing stateside to call their members of congress and request approval of short- and long-term aid packages.
Increased concerns about exodus
Méndez’s announcement comes at a time when several sectors fear the massive exodus of Puerto Ricans because of the catastrophe that grips the island. As recently as Tuesday, the executive director of the fiscal board, Natalie Jaresko, expressed her concern about the matter.
During the10th public meeting of the fiscal oversight board established by federal law, Jaresko expressed the importance of promoting an encouraging scenario, so the population does not abandon the island at a time when it is estimated that 15% of its residents could emigrate before December.
That is how the representative of the Government to the fiscal control board, Christian Sobrino, put it. If correct, the estimate could represent the departure of 340,000 to 510,000 island residents. Jaresko stressed that the government’s restructuring must consider the demographic changes.