PR entertainment industry on ‘red alert’ as artists demand financial aid amid pandemic
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
“Arts and entertainment are things that the country needs. The people’s mental health is in a precarious condition at this time and for this reason, we are bringing light to this crisis so the government will take care of it,” said Puerto Rico Public Event Producers Association (COPER by its Spanish acronym) President Nelson Torres Castro on Sunday as the local events industry demanded financial aid for more than 30,000 artists along with prompt action on a reopening plan that includes adequate public health guidelines.
Torres told the Star that the industry has joined with the International United Events Workers Movement (MUTE by its Spanish acronym) to urge the government to regularize work in the cultural sector in an appropriate way and to take steps to alleviate the serious situation cultural workers have been confronting since March. Last Thursday, artists began to gather at José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum Square in Hato Rey on “red alert” as 90 percent of the industry’s members are self-employed and are still waiting for unemployment aid.
“We have focused our demands in two directions. We submitted two plans to the Puerto Rican government: a recovery plan and a reopening plan. I mentioned the recovery plan first as we request a swift answer from the government. Our recovery plan proposes that the government, with the Treasury Department, identify financial aid, incentives and rescue funds for the 45 specialties that our entertainment industry includes,” Torres said. “This is an industry that has lost over $156 million in six months and generates over $2.1 billion a year for our local economy.”
The COPER president said the reopening plan proposes safety protocols against the spread of coronavirus infections and would “bring back confidence on the part of the public” to attend entertainment shows, which have been shut down for six consecutive months. Likewise, Torres told the Star that ever since Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced announced that public events could be reincorporated gradually with gubernatorial approval, COPER has been holding conversations with La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Antonio Pabón Batlle and Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Manuel Laboy in order to analyze the proposals it has submitted since May.
“I will meet with both secretaries in order for them to be intermediaries, to be enablers, to develop a uniform metric plan so that, by the time they consider a proposal, that proposal will comply with the government’s vision and we can take a step forward toward uniformity and swiftness,” Torres said. “Also, I would like to gather what plans the gubernatorial candidates have in store for the local arts, culture and entertainment in their government plans as we have to know what is in store for our industry when the next governor arrives in January.”
MUTE was created in Spain with the aim of uniting all those affected by the situation experienced by workers in the arts and culture in all parts of the world. In the case of Puerto Rico, the industry is demanding that the government immediately activate a recovery plan for the entertainment sector and begin implementing economic aid and incentives for its workers.