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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Kamala Harris’ fundraising in the territory

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks about the Affordable Care Act at the John Chavis Community Center in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

By Gregorio Igartúa

Special to The Star

Surprisingly, Puerto Rico was visited by key members of President Biden’s Cabinet, as well as the first lady, in just one week. First lady Jill Biden was followed by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and the visit by Vice President Kamala Harris was the most recent.

As we know now, it was an excellent opportunity for both, for Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on the one hand, and for the vice president on the other. They all came not only for the raising of funds for the Democratic Party, but because they all know that in the mainland U.S., we decide elections with 5 million votes of American citizens who moved their residence to the 50 states.

We pay more federal taxes than some IRS regions in the States. Many Puerto Ricans have died defending democracy abroad. A request for support of territorial incorporation from Democrats, which is based on what we are, American citizens, not on what we can hypothetically be, was the most proper issue Gov. Pierluisi should have brought to the table with the vice president.

Considering the main problem is the discriminatory political treatment of the American citizens residing in Puerto Rico by imposing government without consent of the governed, he should have requested that Vice President Harris, jointly with the president, ask Congress to certify Puerto Rico as an incorporated U.S. territory, which de facto it is. Puerto Rico is the most assimilated territory to be like a state in the history of our nation.

The Financial Oversight and Management Board was a topic of local importance. The governor should have mentioned the need of the poor to get the Supplemental Security Income, SSI, made applicable to Puerto Rico, that President Biden had said publicly that he supported it, but his attorney general (and subordinate) litigated against it in the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Vaello. (Contradictory?) Also, he can still propose to Congress to legislate for such purposes, if he really meant what he said.

One other important issue was to request that the federal government pay the creditors of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority in the bankruptcy case, as it is (and will be) too onerous to consider passing the utility’s debt burden to local residents, if not unjust and unfair.

For the vice president’s part, she was very political, more so than the governor. She raised $500,000.00 for the Democratic Party during her visit to Puerto Rico, while we have been denied participation in the federal electoral process since 1898. Republicans also raise similar amounts for their national party. After 126 years, it is time to resolve. Let’s hope Vice President Harris got the message for which she was paid.

Gregorio Igartúa is a lawyer and longtime advocate of statehood for Puerto Rico.

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