Puerto Rico should pay close attention to President Donald Trump´s first State of the Union address. Attention must be focused, not only to the meaning of the brief mention of Puerto Rico during the speech, but on the local effect of the domestic and international policies advanced by the president.
In his 80 minutes speech, Trump mentioned Puerto Rico along with Texas, Florida, Louisiana, California and the Virgin Islands, impacted by recent natural disasters. That brief reference evokes the unequal treatment of the federal government towards Puerto Rico during the hurricane emergency. The mention reffered to his short visit to the island after Hurricane Maria: "We are with you, we love you and we will pull through together".
With half of the island still in the dark, in the longest blackout in US history, Puerto Rico needs more than presidential sympathies. It requires respect. The more than three million American citizens who live here need their rights to be honored.
It is urgent for Puerto Rico that the federal government releases the loan authorized by Congress to address the emergency as soon as possible. It needs funds to provide medical services, threatened by a new federal health reform.
Each of the plans the president mentioned in his speech on Tuesday will impact on the island.
Puerto Rico knows first hand, because it has lost thousands of Puerto Ricans in wars, the possible implications of Trump's new armament and confrontational policy. His rhetorics towards North Korea sows fears of a conflict that other leaders of the world have managed to avoid for decades. He insists on undermining the agreements reached by the international community with Iran, among others.
He proposes to go back to fossil sources such as oil and coal to produce energy. Just when US most advanced states, the world and Puerto Rico are looking towards renewable sources of energy.
Today the planet is more habitable because it has managed to tear walls down. Trump insists on lifting them up again. And he is evoking the United States of the past, which was painful and with wounds still trying to heal.
With an overwhelming level of disapproval from the American people and a low level of credibility, Trump insists on turning his back to the world. In his isolationist vision, he calls enemies those who disagree with him. He threatens and instigates them.
The Washington Post stated in its editorial in response to that speech, that under Trump´s presidency, the capital is more paralyzed than ever by partisanship and corruption.
Puerto Rico closely knows about the serious consequences of both evils. Partisanship and corruption have pushed the island to the abyss we are now and need to leave behind. Both grow and get stronger with citizens negligence. Indifference is an accomplice in those behaviours that corrode society.
Active, conscious and informed participation of the people are antidotes against such plagues.
US citizens residing in Puerto Rico can not vote in the US elections, but can be activated to influence in the results. Through campaigns, lobbying and the mobilization of their families in the diaspora they can make a difference.
At this point, it is appropriate to design and execute strategies so that these federal policies favor or have a minor impact on the island. Trump has promised $ 1.5 trillion to rebuild the infrastructure. And Puerto Rico must pressure to procure a fair amount of money.
From the diaspora, the electoral activation of Puerto Ricans gives them political strength. Within the island, it is urgent to develop our own agenda that depends more on local productivity and exports and less on the swings of Washington.
President Trump announced on Tuesday the route he will take this year. Wheather the measures will impact in a positive or negative way on the island depends on Puerto Rico´s population.
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