Washington – Yesterday - one week before the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria and at a time when officals are requesting a temporary partial waiver in cabotage laws - Puerto Rican government officials held meetings at the White House to discuss the Puerto Rican recovery process.
However, neither La Fortaleza nor the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) offered details.
The Resident Commissioner in Washington DC, Jenniffer González, said that yesterday there was a meeting scheduled - in the afternoon - for Luis Rivera Marín, Secretary of State, with various White House officials, including Douglas Lynn Hoelscher, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Communications Division staff and Homeland Security and Federal Housing representatives.
"Next week is the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria, and I imagine they want to coordinate efforts," noted Gonzalez.
Previously, Puerto Rican government sources indicated that the president of the Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico, Luis Burdiel, also had a meeting at the White House, together with PRFAA executive director, Carlos Mercader.
Burdiel is friends with Don McGahn, White House Counsel, who will step down before the end of the year.
It was not clear if Burdiel and Rivera Marín would participate in the same meeting.
The visit of Rosselló Nevares government officials to the White House to address issues related to recovery and cabotage laws took place before the voting on Monday, at the Southern States Energy Board (SSEB) – integrated by governors and legislators from 16 states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands –, on the resolution that requests a ten-year administrative waiver for the transportation of energy products between US ports and Puerto Rico.
The vice president of the Puerto Rican Senate, Larry Seilhamer, co-author of the bill submitted to the SSEB, confirmed that the voting will be held on Monday. The resolution also advocates for Congress to fully exempt the island from cabotage laws, regulated by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act).
Cabotage laws, demand the use of American owned, registered and crewed ships for cargo transportation between the United States and Puerto Rico.
PREPA Executive Director, José Ortiz, had anticipated that this week there would be a meeting in the White House to demand a temporary administrative waiver, at least, for natural gas products, to extend its use in electricity production on the island.
The Resident Commissioner reaffirmed her support for the request to obtain a temporary waiver for energy products, considering that Puerto Rico does not have access to enough ships to maintain the natural gas supply that will be required soon.
Puerto Rican main business organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the United Retailers Association, have asked the governor to expand their petition and request a total, temporary or permanent waiver.
They have also questioned that the government of Puerto Rico had softened the claim in favor of the cabotage rules exemption for the island.
Originally, the preliminary recovery plan submitted by Governor Rosselló in July to Congress established that the Jones Act of 1920 "restricts Puerto Rico's ability to import a variety of goods and services at more competitive prices."
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