Pied Piper of the Puerto Rican Diaspora?

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló threatened to lead the diaspora vote in the 2018 midterm elections. Here he leads a Christmas parranda down an Old San Juan street. / Rosselló-Facebook

The governor of Puerto Rico wants to be the Pied Piper of the Puerto Rican vote, leading the diaspora to the polls in 2018 if Congress doesn’t treat the island better under tax reform. Well, tax reform came and went and Governor Ricardo Rosselló may have to make good on his promise because the reform designates Puerto Rico as a foreign entity at considerable cost to the island economy.

“We are a significant voting bloc in the United States that perhaps hasn’t been organized well in the past,” said Rosselló in an article in Politico. “The diaspora, the Puerto Rican exodus, has always wanted to help Puerto Rico, it just hasn’t been crystal clear how they can do it. If we can establish that organization we can have plenty of influence.”

Rosselló is a little late to the political party, for everyone and her grandmother has been trying to corral the Puerto Rican vote, especially in Central Florida, with the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the state. And this has been the case for quite a while.

Something Laughable

That aside, there is something laughable about Puerto Rico’s failed ruling class, of which Rosselló is a legacy child for his father Pedro Rosselló was a two-term governor, promising to sew up the stateside Puerto Rican vote. The island’s ruling class has demonstrated beyond a doubt it has no clothes of any political stripes, having abandoned the largely poor people of Puerto Rico to fend for themselves in the worse natural disaster in modern Puerto Rico and U.S. history. In addition, it has shown no political accountability for the man-made disasters that erupted after the hurricanes struck.

What army of voters do such inept elected officials pretend to lead here? Three months after Hurricanes Irma and María, Puerto Ricans are still suffering. According to the commonwealth’s own unreliable statistics:

  • People have gone over 96 days without full electric power; only 70 percent power generation, whatever that means.
  • Nearly 13 percent have no water with many areas under boil-water advisories.
  • 7 percent are without telephone service, higher in rural areas.
  • 8 percent of supermarkets remain closed, also higher in rural areas.
  • 64 people died as a result of the hurricanes, the government states, although independent sources cite over 1,000 deaths.

Love of the Island

But because Puerto Ricans love the island from which they or their antecedents sprang, the diaspora is more than eager to help  get the island back on its feet.

Know this above all else: Puerto Rico’s political status divides Puerto Ricans but Puerto Rico unites the diaspora.

In Central Florida, millions of pounds of food and supplies have been collected for Puerto Rico via several groups, most notably Coordinadora de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Ayuda or CASA. Smaller outfits like Adopta Un Pueblo are helping to light up Puerto Rico with solar light bulbs.

The dichotomy means the Florida diaspora very likely will see the 2018 midterm elections turn into a bacchanal of island politics transported to the Sunshine State, as Governor Pied Piper himself attempts to lead the diaspora vote, which traditionally leans Democrat.

Muddy the Mix

But Gov. Rick Scott‘s excellent leadership of Hurricane María evacuee efforts – establishing three hurricane relief centers in the state and sending state workers to help with hurricane recovery on the island – will muddy the mix. Scott will be at the top of the Florida ballot himself, as he is rumored to run for U.S. Senate.

Rosselló can most threaten to hurt U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is rumored to run for Florida governor. Rubio voted for the federal tax reform, after he said he would not, creating bad blood between the two hombres.

But he is thinking beyond that as well. According to Politico, the governor thinks “they can sway congressional district votes in 14 states, including Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. He pointed to the influence of Florida’s 2.7 million Cuban-Americans, a powerful and well-organized constituency.”

Pied Piper Pawns

The Puerto Rican diaspora in Florida, if it is not careful, may become pawns in the Pied Piper war of political retribution, overlooking its own real political needs. For its exceedingly clear that the nature of the relationship between the island’s failed political class (no matter the political party) and the diaspora is totally transactional. Nothing more.

The go-to motto is: Ask not what the island that has sent tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans fleeing to the states can do for you. Ask what you can do for Puerto Rico.

To which we add: And don’t ask too much else.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

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