Island professionals organize to solve Puerto Rico’s pressing social issues
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
Young islanders who led a campaign calling for residents to register and vote in the 2020 elections on Wednesday announced the launch of a revamped social and political change group, called “Somos Más,” that aims to educate residents on the development of public policies and fight against corruption and injustice.”
Founder Johnny Rullán Schmidt said Somos Más (We Are More), consists currently of 10 professionals from diverse sectors, such as mental health, public health, communications, social investigation, and law, who want to activate citizens to get involved in the island Legislature.
“We had three choices: we keep ourselves in the daily Puerto Rican lament of complaining about what is constantly happening in Puerto Rico, throw in the towel and get on a plane, or stay, but do something to be part of the solution,” Rullán, a psychologist, said during a press conference at the North Wing of the Capitol.
Rullán added that the group is not tied to a political, partisan, or ideological cause; therefore, they seek to incorporate into the movement “the majority of people who are committed to being part of the solution with us.”
“We are working on ground that is more fertile than ever with the diversity we have now in the Legislature,” he added, while noting the approval of legislation that seeks to develop an office for the deaf community and bills to increase the island’s minimum wage.
Fabiola Cruz, the former chief of the Department of Health’s Municipal Case Investigation and Contact Tracing System, said meanwhile that the group, more than tackling the island’s corruption issues, foresees lobbying for legislation that pushes for better healthcare and proper governance.
“With a better quality of life, we get rewarded with better public health,” the epidemiologist said. “More than accomplishing the approval of laws that we lobby for, we will get to see a youth that is interested in their country’s politics, moving themselves to build a better Puerto Rico.”
Law student Angelique Montijo said choosing corruption as their main issue comes out of an understanding that “there is an imperative need for the people to once again trust their democratic institutions.”
She said the lack of trust has led the island into hopelessness and uncertainty “never before seen in our society.”
Therefore, Somos Más penned four draft laws that seek to forbid donating to political campaigns via cash, pursue the development of a local “Hatch Act” that forbids public workers and contractors from conducting political activism during work hours, establish a law that orders government officials to hire back trust employees two years after their former job and develop a whistleblower law that protects people who report fraud that involves public funding.
Génesis Rivera, a law student, said that during the four-year term, the group “will become a vehicle to empower citizens in the problem-solving process [to reverse a level of] mistrust never before seen with our governmental institutions in order to aspire for a better society in all realms.”