Puerto Rico could experience a dramatic impact if President Trump succeeded in his intention to divert disaster relief funds to finance the U.S.-México border wall.
The moment calls for all civil society and political forces, particularly federal Representatives and Senators who have claimed friendship with Puerto Rico, to keep their word with clear actions intended to break a political impasse that has forced a partial government shutdown that has reached the three-week mark.
The controversial border wall is a physical and metaphorical symbol of the failure of unequal and repressive social and economic policies that leave millions of people out of development in our continent. It also represents an exclusionary and dehumanizing ideology.
President Donald Trump´s stubbornnes regarding the US-Mexico border wall threatens to create a humanitarian and economic crisis in the United States and worsen that of the island.
The government of Puerto Rico has already resorted to special funds to keep the San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal castles open. And although the House passed a bill –with 10 Republicans voting for the measure- to reopen national parks and retroactively pay government workers, the Senate will not bring the bill to a vote until there is an agreement on the President´s demand for $5,7 billion to fund the border wall.
Meanwhile, 800,000 federal employees –including 4,500 on the island- did not receive their paycheck this Friday.
The political impasse, and therefore, the partial government shutdown that seem to drag on indefinitely are already affecting essential services and putting at risks millions of employees and essential operations, ranging from air traffic to courts.
As the impasse escalates, consequences on the island increase. On one hand, it would affect the already insufficient surveillance in our region, left at the mercy of drug and human trafficking. Federal authorities on the island confirmed that they have little control over our borders, the U.S. southernmost border, although not recognized.
The fact that Puerto Rico may lose disaster relief funds intended for the reconstruction, and a lifeline for our battered economy, also causes concerns. The White House plans to divert funds toward the border wall that is increasingly isolating a nation that has been a mecca for diversity and civil liberties.
The help committed should reach the island, as well as other jurisdictions affected by recent disasters. It is urgent for the sense of justice to prevail, particularly among the Senate Republican majority with power to enforce the system of checks and balances provided by the Constitution.
Many Puerto Ricans living in the United States trusted the word of Republicans like Rick Scott, former Florida governor and nowsenator, and Senator Marcos Rubio, among others, who have seen first hand the humanitarian crisis that Hurricane Maria left in Puerto Rico.
Those elected now have to live up to the historical challenge. Refusing to negotiate threatens the rights of millions of citizens and undermines the very foundations of democracy.
As tensions remain high –as a result of absurd populist practices in the U.S., it seems timely to think over ideologies –like that supporting the border wall- that take the wrong path of isolation and exclusion
This difficult situation confirms that all parties should set aside political differences and be willing to work for a greater good.
Let us hope that the wisdom of the democratic system will prevail.
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