SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico will no longer put up with so many years of being a colony of the United States, the island’s non-voting member of the US House of Representatives told EFE on Monday.
This inequality between the US citizens of Puerto Rico and those on the mainland is the origin of many of the problems afflicting the island, according to Jennifer Gonzalez, who said that she is “pushing different strategies” to transform the Caribbean territory into the 51st state.
“I’m not sticking with just one bill. We’re (also) going to do it by the judicial and executive route. We’ll succeed with one of these,” she said.
“The US is the cradle of democracy and they have to let it start in their backyard. In this case, we’re the neighbors who are in the backyard. I hope that it can happen in a really short time. Puerto Rico will not put up with so many years as a colony,” she emphasized.
The island, she noted, is experiencing a fiscal crisis, with its infrastructure “devastated” not only by Hurricane Maria, blamed for nearly 3,000 deaths, but also as a result of an “unworthy colonial status.”
“Americans died because this territory has a second-class infrastructure as a result of unequal treatment ... by the federal government for decades, making it vulnerable to natural disasters,” Gonzalez said.
In a conversation with EFE, Gonzalez said that up to now Puerto Rico has received $35 billion in direct aid from Washington to recover from Maria.
Puerto Rico also shared in the $9 billion in assistance earmarked for US jurisdictions affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
That figure is not going directly to Puerto Rico. The affected person – for example, a farmer or employers who paid their employees after Maria – must make a monetary claim for their losses or payments, and they are reimbursed indirectly through that allocation of funds.
“In a year, we’ve received the largest amount of federal funds in the history of Puerto Rico,” she emphasized, adding that “this has been the biggest disaster” the island has ever endured.
Finally, she said that if anything positive could come from the misfortune of Hurricane Maria’s passage, that would be that now many people in the US know that Puerto Ricans are also Americans.
“They didn’t know that the US had a colony. It has served to educate lawmakers and agency chiefs and get more aid,” Gonzalez said.