Washington, D.C. – The members of the national Power 4 Puerto Rico coalition of civil rights, faith-based, labor and advocacy organizations issued the following statements as they came together to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria through a National Week of Action, entitled “Boricuas Remember.” The events honor and remember the nearly 3,000 U.S. citizens whose lives were taken as a result of Hurricane Maria. The events also serve as a declaration of unity with the Puerto Rican people calling for a just and transparent recovery and rebuilding process. Community leaders, artists and advocates are leading mass vigils and rallies across the country tonight and this weekend.
Melissa Mark-Viverito, Campaign Director for Power 4 Puerto Rico and Vice President for Strategic Engagement for Latino Victory Project. “Our national coalition has worked for 12 months demanding that the Trump Administration take responsibility for its failure to prepare for and adequately respond to Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico. By FEMA’s own admission, terrible errors were made in the rescue and recovery process. Errors that help set the stage for the loss of thousands upon thousands of lives as estimated by both George Washington University and Harvard. The Puerto Rican people demand that the White House own its failures and support the Puerto Rican people in rebuilding, instead of offering denials and rebuttals that serve no one but the President. On the Anniversary of Hurricane Maria, our community comes together to mourn. And this coming November, our mourning turns to voting.”
Luis A. Miranda, Jr., Chairperson of Latino Victory Fund and Founding Partner at MirRam Group: "The humanitarian catastrophe that stroke Puerto Rico exactly one year ago, exposed the gross disparity, unfairness, inequality, inefficiency, insensitivity and indifference of the Trump administration toward a U.S. territory inhabited by over 3 million U.S. citizens. Today we remember the 3,000 people who perished in this tragedy, and we reiterate our commitment to continue to seek change and justice in the distribution of aid that is swift and compatible with the size and scope of this catastrophe. No one doubts now that Puerto Rico is a colony and many Americans for the first time learned that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. The Puerto Rican diaspora and our allies said ‘presente.’ Thanks a todos los que pusieron su granito de arena o un peñón en este esfuerzo colectivo y humanitario."
José Calderón, President of the Hispanic Federation: “From the day Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, President Trump has shown a level of indifference and callousness towards the people of Puerto Rico that is nothing short of reprehensible. It is why today we continue our work with the Power 4 Puerto Coalition to unite diverse organizations across our country and demand justice for this atrocity. It is time for our elected officials to feel the brunt of our outrage and let it be known that we will remember in November whether they stood with Puerto Rico or not.”
Marcos Vilar, President of Alianza for Progress. “From Jacksonville to Tallahassee and down to Miami, Puerto Ricans and our supporters in Florida are mobilizing for caravans, rallies and vigils to send a clear message: Puerto Rico will not be forgotten. Our island is still struggling to rebuild. There are still homes and businesses without electricity. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled to the mainland to rebuild their lives here. This is a moment to make our voices heard, so that all Puerto Ricans, whether here or there, can live their lives with justice, power and opportunity.”
Otoniel Figueroa-Duran, a member of Alianza for Puerto Rico, key partner of the Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico Fund and Vamos4PR: “No one deserves to be treated this way after a disaster. In the face of federal and island governments that abandoned them, Puerto Ricans turned to each other and to their loved ones for help, both on the island and in the states. Today, many people like us are gathering all across the US to say that we have not forgotten Puerto Rico and that we will continue to provide the help that has been denied them. We will not rest until Puerto Rico receives a just recovery.”
Héctor Figueroa, President of 32BJ SEIU, member of Vamos4PR steering committee: “A year ago today, as Hurricane María approached Puerto Rico, many of us knew that the storm would likely cause great damage. The island infrastructure had already been battered by a decade-long recession and by a crippling public debt crisis, and the neglect of the federal government, which let its economy sink under these burdens. But we did not anticipate the extent of the damage that Maria would cause or the devastating levels of disrespect that Puerto Ricans would endure from their federal government. Abandoned, Puerto Ricans have turned to each other and to their loved ones for help, We remember the dead, but also those who have and have fought to rebuild, brick by brick, tree by tree.”
Julio López Varona, Co-Director of Campaigns for Community Dignity for Center for Popular Democracy: “A year ago today Hurricane Maria tore through the island of Puerto Rico, destroying hundreds of thousands of homes and the island’s basic infrastructure and lifting lifted the veil on decades of disinvestment. The story of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria is not just a story of devastation, it is also a story of resilience, dignity and collective power. In the face of a negligent and inept response by the federal government, people turned to each other for support and began to craft a new vision for a Just Recovery. Today, #1YearAfterMaria, thousands of people from all over the country are coming together to remember people who lost their lives, and to affirm our commitment to fight for a just recovery for Puerto Rico and for the dignity of Puerto Rican climate refugees."
Jose Menendez, Chapter Chair for Sierra Club de Puerto Rico: “Without a reliable clean energy grid, Puerto Rico is not safe from the impacts of climate change. Every day thousands of people on the island lose access to power as our unreliable, decrepit grid flickers on and off. Imagine what will happen during the next hurricane. Just like when Maria and Irma hit, our hospitals will go dark and vulnerable people will die for lack of access to basic health care like oxygen and dialysis. I write this from San Juan, where we just regained power after an outage from Tropical Storm Isaac. But hurricane season is just beginning. Now, and perhaps forever, our lives depend upon an electric grid more fragile and unreliable than any other in the United States. Until Puerto Rico builds a reliable, distributed clean energy grid that actually works for our mountainous island, millions of lives will be at risk every hurricane season.”
Jennice Fuentes and Federico de Jesús, co-founders of BoricuActívate: “One year after the deadliest and most devastating natural disaster in modern US history, there is still much more to do to rebuild Puerto Rico and help the people of the Island and evacuees in the states get back on their feet. We believe that the Puerto Rican Diaspora and our allies have a unique opportunity to mobilize and press our elected officials to ensure that the reconstruction is carried out in a transparent, community-centric way with the robust federal help the Island needs. That is why we are proud to be a part of the Power 4 Puerto Rico coalition because through this work, the victims of the storm are becoming protagonists of their destiny,” said Jennice Fuentes and Federico de Jesús, co-founders of BoricuActívate, a civic engagement group focused on empowering the Puerto Rican Diaspora and its allies on how to effectively advocate for the Island before their elected officials.
Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress: “September 20, 2018 marks one year since of one of the greatest natural disasters in modern U.S. history. As we reflect upon the nearly 3,000 lives lost in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria and the prolonged suffering of our fellow American citizens, it is also burned into our minds that much of this devastation is man-made at the hands of the Trump administration. A failed federal disaster response combined with an island in dire structural, financial, and political crisis led to an unimaginable tragedy Puerto Rican families are still reeling from today. What’s worse is that this administration still refuses to accept responsibility for their woefully inadequate emergency preparation and negligent response, even going so far as to dispute proven death toll estimates in favor of patting themselves on the back for the job they did. People in Puerto Rico are still living under blue tarps, dealing with power outages and ongoing medical issues, and facing red tape across the board when trying to get aid from the federal government to rebuild. This is an unacceptable state of affairs at the 365-day mark since Maria made landfall.”
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT): “While Hurricane Maria was a calamitous natural disaster, its tragic aftermath has been almost entirely manmade. One year later, Puerto Rico is still in crisis, hamstrung by the failure of President Trump to respect the lives of 3.5 million U.S. citizens on the island and the 2,975 who died there. While the president continues to see Maria in political terms—focusing on what advantage can he wring from it, how he can spin it—we see it in deeply personal, humanitarian terms. Simply put, the federal government has abandoned its constitutional responsibility to ensure every child in Puerto Rico has access to an adequate public education. Meanwhile, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Puerto Rico’s education secretary have exploited the disaster by closing nearly one-third of Puerto Rico’s schools and opening unaccountable charters. Far greater accountability and congressional oversight is needed to ensure recovery money is used to rebuild public schools and is not diverted elsewhere. The AFT, AMPR and the Power4PR Coalition will continue caring, fighting and showing up to rebuild and revitalize Puerto Rico. And we will continue to hold the government to account for its lack of action, including at the ballot box in November.”
Powered by the Latino Victory Project, Power 4 Puerto Rico is a nationwide coalition of organizations, leaders, and advocates from across the nation calling on Congress and the Administration to adopt an ambitious, new agenda that will put Puerto Rico’s economy on the road to future growth and prosperity. The coalition includes 32BJ SEIU, Alianza for Progress, American Federation of Teachers, BoricuActívate, Center for Popular Democracy, Hedge Clippers, Hispanic Federation, Hispanic National Bar Association, LCLAA, Make the Road (Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York), Unidos US, Vamos 4 Puerto Rico, and many more.