WASHINGTON – The Puerto Rican Senate opened on Wednesday its office near the Capitol in Washington DC with an eye toward increasing its influence over federal policies that impact the US commonwealth.
The opening of the office – staffed by people who have already been working for the US upper house – comes at a time when the state legislative and executive branches continue trying to exert pressure to speed the allocation of federal funds that will allow the island to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria last year.
The DC office, which will become one additional actor in achieving a greater Puerto Rican presence in issues in Washington, joins that of the island’s Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez.
“If we had our two senators and the corresponding congressmen and the right to vote to elect the president this office wouldn’t be necessary. We don’t have that political power,” said Thomas Rivera Schatz, the head of the Puerto Rican Senate, during the opening ceremony for the office.
He said that the goal for the new office is “to halt the abuses that some people want to commit” and to have a “direct” presence in an environment where decisions are made that directly affect Puerto Rico.
He also noted that the island’s Senate opened a similar office in the nation’s capital in 1941.
Former Puerto Rican Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo said that “we’ve been fighting for some time,” adding that the only way to “guarantee equality” for the island is to become the 51st US state, something that he said he felt sure would happen by 2020.