Dear 2020 Presidential Candidates: Puerto Rico Matters, So Start Getting Serious About That

Jul 29, 2019
9:55 AM

A protester during a demonstration against Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, July 23, 2019. (AP Photo / Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo)

Dear 2020 Presidential Candidates,

I want to begin by saying that I am grateful for the outpouring of support you —or at least most of you— showed Puerto Rico during the last two weeks. The truth is, the people of Puerto Rico made it clear that we did not need the support of any politician to remove governor Ricardo Rosselló from power, but having presidential candidates and members of Congress publicly call for his resignation helped. Who can keep governing when hundreds of thousands are protesting against you back home and no one in Washington, D.C., will pick up the phone?

Your solidarity was important because Puerto Rico’s colonial status makes us more vulnerable
to the whims of Congress and the President of the United States than other jurisdictions. The
fact that we have a federally-imposed Fiscal Control Board, and that the Trump administration is holding up billions of dollars that were approved by Congress months ago —and that the island needs in order to recover from the destruction of Hurricane María— underscores the importance of having a governor in which Washington can trust.

It also underscores the importance for Puerto Ricans to have someone in the White House that
has a plan to get the U.S. citizens residing in the island the help they were promised. Someone that will tell us how they plan to work with us to rebuild, to help develop our economy, and ensure that we transition our energy grid to be powered 100% by renewable sources. We just don’t know who that is yet.

For years we have heard both political parties talk about the importance of the Puerto Rican vote and about their efforts to win it, but when is that talk going to turn into action? The
#RickyRenuncia movement was a showcase for the grit and character of the Puerto Rican
people. It also showed the world that we are everywhere and ready to spring to action. Showing solidarity for #RickyRenuncia was crucial for getting Rosselló to leave so quickly, but it
was not that brave. The first few of you that did come out at the beginning, stood their necks out after hearing for so long not to pick sides in Puerto Rico. Those candidates stood for principle.

However, after it was clear that this was the nearly unanimous demand on the island and it
became a cause célèbre —the hashtag was trending after all— you probably saw it as a chance to jump on the bandwagon and not be left behind. But this experience made us all truly
understand what being brave means, because, as protesters were saying: “They took so much
from us, that they even took our fear.”

To be truly brave, to actually cut through the clutter when it matters, we need someone to
propose POLICIES instead of trying to “trend.” We need someone to acknowledge us —and not
just in passing— during this week’s debates in Detroit. Someone that wants to work, alongside
us, to improve the lives of people in the island.

We took to the streets, not only in Puerto Rico but all across the world, to force the resignation of a governor who had a plan for everything, but did not follow-through, and in fact betrayed his people. Don’t think we won’t stand up to politicians stateside should it be necessary.

Two weeks ago I was banging my head wondering how we could gain your attention, but now I
know we have it and I can’t help but wonder: How do you feel now about the power of the
Puerto Rican people?

It’s amazing how two weeks can change everything.

Best,
Frederick Vélez III Burgos

PS: The more than 5 million Puerto Ricans living in the States are watching.

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Frederick Vélez III Burgos is a former Congressional staff member and has worked in the last three election cycles to get out the vote in the Latino community. Born and raised in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, he now lives in Miami, FL. You can follow him on Twitter at @frederickviii.