National coalition of stateside Puerto Ricans, disappointed with Biden administration’s ignorance of U.S colonialism
On Wednesday, August 25, Power 4 Puerto Rico sent a letter to President Biden, urging his task force not to ignore the structural barriers to the island’s prosperity.
Power 4 Puerto Rico, a national coalition of stateside Puerto Ricans that advocate for federal policies and legislation centered around the island’s recovery and economic growth, sent a letter to Biden on Wednesday, expressing their “deep disappointment” with his task force.
According to a copy of the letter obtained by NBC News, the coalition said that while they are pleased with the efforts to reinstate a “working group that is meaningfully empowered to coordinate Puerto Rico federal policy,” the group is still dissatisfied with the ignorance of one of the two major “structural barriers” to the island’s prosperity.
The underlying structural barrier highlighted in the letter is the 123 years of U.S colonialism.
NOTE: In our letter to @POTUS, we reminded that addressing the island’s political relationship with the U.S. continues to be the stated primary mission of the [@WhiteHouse] task force on #PuertoRico, per Executive Order 13517 -- which is still in effect. https://t.co/OqVdka5eFz
— Power4PuertoRico (@Pwr4PuertoRico) August 26, 2021
Last month, Biden reestablished a White House Puerto Rico task force to further develop efforts to rebuild the U.S territory in the wake of Hurricane Maria and Irma in 2017, as well as last year’s earthquakes and the COVID-19 pandemic.
During their first meeting, held on July 20, Biden’s cabinet and four deputy agent secretaries established their top priority as investing in PR’s long-term “resilience” and infrastructure to make sure that communities can tolerate and combat future natural disasters.
In the letter, Power 4 Puerto Rico cited a column that Biden penned for the Orlando Sentinel in December 2019 in which he vowed to “engage Puerto Ricans — including representatives of every status option — in a process of self-determination, listening and developing federal legislation that outlines a fair path forward.”
In his column, Biden promised to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour, fight for unions and worker’s rights, preserve pensions and public services, protect Obamacare, expand access to Medicaid, address the threat of climate change and more.
On Thursday August 26, a White House spokesperson sent an email to NBC News, stating that the task force was created to “provide Puerto Rico the resources and technical assistance it needs to recover and prosper.”
Power 4 Puerto Rico recently rallied in support of the Puerto Rico Self-Determination Act of 2021, a bill introduced by New York Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nydia Velázquez, intended to create a “status convention,” to construct long-term solutions for the island’s territorial status, with independence at the forefront.
After over one hundred years of colonial rule, Puerto Ricans would have a mechanism to determine their own future.
This bill introduced just now would provide a democratic option by giving the Puerto Rican people a chance to make their voices heard in two open elections. pic.twitter.com/kJI7WjISZo
— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) March 18, 2021
Last month, Gretchen Sierra-Zorita, the White House associate director for Puerto Rico and the territories, told NBC News that the newly formed task force does not have jurisdiction on status, but it does have jurisdiction concerning the “billions of dollars that have gone to the island.”
The federal government has distributed over $69 billion in recovery funds to the island, but communities have only received close to $21 billion, according to the Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency.
Most of these funds have been allocated to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development.
“The students of Puerto Rico have suffered enough,” said U.S. Education Sec. Cardona, announcing that the territory will receive nearly $4B in federal education pandemic relief funds. “It’s time to get back to school safely and quickly.” https://t.co/LKxsQCHyGw
— NBC Latino (@NBCLatino) June 29, 2021
Rather than becoming stymied by the status debate, Sierra-Zorita said that the task force intends to spend their time and energy on “doing it right” and focusing on economic development, education, and workforce development and recovery.
“Modern-day colonialism is a stain on the United States. One that cannot be erased, much less ignored,” the letter reads.