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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

In Biden welcome, Senate president demands equal treatment for island

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago

By John McPhaul

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden to the island on Monday while demanding equal treatment for Puerto Rico under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, among other things.

“President Joe Biden’s visit to Puerto Rico is of great importance at a time when Puerto Ricans have just faced an emergency. Likewise, it occurs five years after the passage of Hurricane Maria, whose recovery efforts are in an initial stage,” Dalmau Santiago said in a written statement. “Therefore, our first demand is that not only the disbursement of federal funds be expedited, but also that the pending projects materialize.”

“The people expect concrete actions in their communities so that they have adequate housing infrastructure that is required not only to face any emergency, but also for the future development of Puerto Rico,” the Popular Democratic Party lawmaker added.

“This visit should allow President Biden to understand the effects of an unequal distribution of the Medicaid and Medicare programs in Puerto Rico,” Dalmau Santiago said. “The refusal to give a greater contribution to the island, compared to other state jurisdictions in the United States, places the health of Puerto Ricans and our health system in a precarious condition. It is for this reason that we advocate for the modification of the hundreds of contributions to Puerto Rico in the area of health.”

The senator also noted that beginning in 2021, Puerto Rico needs an economic development tool that encourages job creation and, at the same time, addresses the need of the United States government to establish in its jurisdiction a center for research and manufacturing of bio-medical and high-tech products, which makes the island the ideal place to benefit the economy and, at the same time, national security.

“Finally, we cannot lose perspective that President Biden’s visit is taking place at a vital moment where Puerto Rico wishes to continue its close relationship with the United States, united by the common citizenship and commitment that exists between both peoples, by the principles of democracy,” Dalmau Santiago said. “Likewise, the friendship of both peoples is intertwined in appreciation and collaboration with the common causes we long for and respect for our history as a Latin American and Caribbean country. “Welcome to Puerto Rico, Mr. President and First Lady.”

Bernabe: President should be held accountable for promises made to Puerto Rico

Citizen Victory Movement (MVC by its Spanish initials) Sen. Rafael Bernabe Riefkohl said Monday that Puerto Rico should take advantage of the president’s visit to insist on substantive actions that the island needs, some of which were part of Biden’s campaign proposals.

“It is good that the president can observe directly the damage caused by Fiona and take the necessary immediate measures that can hasten recovery,” Bernabe said. “Although, in practical terms, Puerto Rico needs more action than visits, we must remember that Fiona aggravated and restated problems that existed before Fiona and that they need to be taken care of.”

Bernabe also pointed out that “we often hear the phrase that elected officials have to account for their execution, an idea with which we are in agreement.”

“But this applies to everyone, including the president of the United States,” he said.

The MVC senator noted that “the Biden-Harris proposal for Puerto Rico included supporting a fair process to solve the problem of status.”

“He also recognized the negative effect of policies imposed by the Financial Oversight and Management Board and the president’s position was to explicitly end the Board’s austerity policies,” Bernabe said. “In addition, he promised debt-related help (“debt relief”) that would allow Puerto Rico to properly renegotiate its debt.”

“None of these promises or proposals has been completed,” he said. “Little or nothing has been done by the White House to initiate a process of decolonization, apart from some general and vague statements, similar to those of past administrations. It is irresponsible that all branches of the federal government recognize that Puerto Rico is a possession of the United States, under the full powers of Congress, that is, a colony, and take no action to initiate a process of decolonization.”

“On the other hand,” Bernabe added, “the Fiscal Control Board continues to impose its austerity policies, expanding its radius of action on issues such as labor reform, which is outside the powers given it under PROMESA [the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act].”

Regarding the debt, Bernabe noted that “after the terrible agreement of COFINA [the Spanish acronym for the Puerto Rico Sales Tax Financing Corp.], another agreement was approved on the general obligation debt and the oversight board is now renegotiating the debt of the [Puerto Rico] Electric Power Authority, without the appearance of ‘debt relief’ actions of the federal government to help us in the battle against the bondholders.”

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