A busload of Puerto Ricans from Orlando is scheduled to travel to the nation’s capital next week to pressure congressional leaders to act on behalf of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.
Buses will converge in Washington, D. C., from points north and south as part of a continuing effort among Puerto Rican groups – in concert with Puerto Rican elected officials in the states – to build momentum to solve the island’s economic problems, including a 10-year recession causing tens of thousands to flee each year in search of opportunities in Central Florida and elsewhere.
“The crisis in Puerto Rico has created a real sense of urgency for us to be talking to one another and coordinating our efforts,” said Zoé Colón, director of Florida and Southeast Operations for Hispanic Federation, a community advocacy group based in New York that opened an office in Orlando this year. “This is historical. It’s the largest exodus out of the island. All eyes are on Florida.”
Puerto Rico is facing a December 1 debt payment of nearly $300 million, a payment that island officials have said cannot be made without disrupting government services. In all, the island owes Wall Street more than $70 billion in debt, money borrowed over many years largely to fill budget holes and maintain government services. A nonpayment would make the island default on its debt.
In the Works Since Summer
Hispanic Federation, Acción Iniciativa Puertorriqueña, Puerto Rican Federal Affairs Administration and Florida’s Puerto Rican Bar Association, among others, have been planning the Puerto Rican Day of Action since July, an effort that continued at the meeting of the Puerto Rican diaspora last month in Orlando.
The groups are calling on Congress to:
Allow Puerto Rico to seek protection under the federal bankruptcy code.
Eliminate the disparity in Medicaid funding on the island.
Extend the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to Puerto Rico.
Acción Iniciativa Puertorriqueña obtained financial support from United Health Coalition, which donated $10,000 for the Florida bus plus an overnight stay in D.C., according to Colón and confirmed in a Facebook posting by Jimmy Torres-Vélez of Acción Iniciativa.
The coalition is planning a press conference on Capitol Hill at which Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), José Serrano, (D-NY), Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) and Puerto Rico’s nonvoting delegate Pedro Pierluisi will speak. The group later will brief about 20 congressional staffers about the issues facing Puerto Rico.
Other press conferences are planned the same day in Tallahassee, where state Sen. Darren Soto (D-Distr. 14) will speak, and Orlando, among other locations.
The Orlando press conference is scheduled for December 2 at 11 a.m. , at El Centro Borinqueño, 1865 N. Econlockhatchee Trail.
María T. Padilla – Editor