Things That Matter

Elizabeth Warren Has Sided With Protesters In Puerto Rico As Pressure Mounts For The Governor To Resign

On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) voiced her support for people in Puerto Rico, who have been protesting for nearly a week against corruption in the island’s government and calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló.

“I stand with Puerto Ricans who are taking to the streets this week to protest government corruption & Governor @RicardoRossello’s deeply offensive comments,” the senator said. “His actions are hurtful & undermine the public trust. He must answer to the Puerto Rican people.”

Protests in the US territory are still happening, with thousands of Puerto Ricans beginning to demonstrate on Saturday after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published a damaging 889-page group chat between Rosselló and some members of his administration. The messages show Puerto Rican leaders making expletive-laden homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic comments about political rivals, celebrities and the people they represent as well as joking about the victims of Hurricane María and revealing how the administration attempted to cover up its inadequate response after the devastating storm. 

The chat, which has been dubbed #TelegramGate, was the catalyst for the massive protests exploding on the archipelago and in diasporic communities across the US and world, but the people’s grievances go well beyond the governor’s foul language. Last week, the FBI arrested six people, including former Education Secretary Julia Keleher and former Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration head Angela Avila-Marrero, on 32 counts of fraud and related charges. The scandal came to no surprise to the people, who have long been accusing the local government of stealing funds and calling for the removal of the unelected fiscal control board. 

Additionally, the archipelago is still recovering from the category 4 hurricane, which claimed 4,645 lives, a number both the governor and President Trump long denied, compounded a $123 billion debt and humanitarian crises, displaced tens of thousands, forced hundreds of thousands more to flee, deepened impoverishment on an island where already nearly half of the population lived under the poverty line and gave rise to the contested privatization of public services. 

Despite the many attacks against the Puerto Rican people, including verbal jabs from President Trump, an overwhelming majority of the 2020 contenders have been mum. Warren, a senator in Massachusetts, which has the fifth-largest population of Puerto Ricans in the country, behind New York, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, has supported the island in the past as well. In Congress, she was one of the leading voices to challenge Trump on his recovery efforts in the territory and called for more attention and respect to be given to the more than 3 million US citizens, albeit second-class, who inhabit the Caribbean island.

Since Wednesday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has also spoken out in support of the Puerto Rican people. 

“Hawaii and Puerto Rico share many of the same experiences and stories. I stand with Puerto Ricans demanding change, who have had enough of government corruption, and who deserve a government of, by, and FOR the people,” Gabbard, who is also campaigning for the Democratic nomination, wrote Thursday in a post on Instagram. “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. #RickyRenuncia” ‬

Her remarks come as protesters in the state of Hawaii, a former US territory, fight to stop the construction of a $1.4 billion telescope on land sacred to Native Hawaiians. 

While tens of thousands of protesters, including celebrities like Bad Bunny, Ricky Martin, Residente, La India, Benicio Del Toro, Daddy Yankee, Anuel, Farruko and more, and a small number of elected officials have urged Gov. Rosselló to step down, he has refused to resign. Apologizing for his “improper act,” he has insisted that he has not done anything illegal and believes he can restore confidence in his people.

In Puerto Rico, the people are not convinced, neither in their leadership on the island nor the federal government. While those living on the island cannot vote in the presidential election,  they can cast their votes in the primaries. And they, and their family in the diaspora, which outnumbers those on the island and can vote in the general election, are taking note of those candidates who continue to ignore their plight.

Read: Tens Of Thousands Of Puerto Ricans, Including Bad Bunny And Ricky Martin, Call For The Resignation Of Gov. Rosselló At Massive Old San Juan Protest

Here’s What The Candidates Had To Say About The Billionaires And Their Responsibilities To Pay Taxes

Things That Matter

Here’s What The Candidates Had To Say About The Billionaires And Their Responsibilities To Pay Taxes

elizabethwarren / juliancastrotx / Instagram

Democrats have officially wrapped their third round of Democratic debates. Last night, 12 candidates for the Democratic nomination went head to head on the debate stage in Ohio. The biggest topics of the night were President Trump’s sudden withdrawal of troops in Syria leaving the Kurds vulnerable to Turkey’s attacks and what to do with billionaires. There were some clear winners and losers from the debate. Here is your quick breakdown from the candidates trying to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Elizabeth Warren delivered a powerful message on the inequalities of the abortion debate.

“I think there are a number of options. I think as Mayor Buttigieg said, there are many different ways that people are talking about different options and I think we may have to talk about them,” Sen. Warren said when asked if she’d add justices to the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights. “But, on Roe v. Wade, can we just pause for a minute here. I lived in an America where abortion was illegal and rich women still got abortions because they could travel. They could go to places where it was legal. What we’re talking about now, is that the people who are denied access to abortion are the poor, are the young, are 14-year-olds who were molested by a family member. We now have support across this country. Three out of 4 Americans believe in the rule of Roe v. Wade. When you’ve got three out of four Americans supporting it, we should be able to get that passed through Congress. We should not leave this up to the Supreme Court. We should do it through democracy because we can.”

The U.S. has seen a series of laws passed on the state level aiming to limit access to abortion. The laws have attempted to shutter Planned Parenthood clinics, which offer many more services than abortions, and Alabama’s law sought to put physicians in prison for 99 years for performing abortions. Louisiana has a law that is being heard by the Supreme Court this session that could force all but one doctor in the state to stop performing abortions.

Julián Castro spoke out about increasing police brutality and deaths at the hands of law enforcement.

“I grew up in neighborhoods where it wasn’t uncommon to hear gunshots at night,” former HUD Secretary Castro said when asked about preventing handgun homicides. “I can remember ducking into the backseat of a car when I was a freshman in high school across the street from my school, my public school because folks were shooting at each other.”

Castro continued by speaking about a topic that has been frequently discussed among the candidates, government buybacks of guns. Castro pointed out that he doesn’t like the idea of a mandatory buyback program since some people have not been able to define it. Furthermore, Castro states that if authorities are not going door-to-door then it isn’t going to be effective.

According to a Pew Research Center study conducted using data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 39,773 people died from gun-related incidents in the U.S. in 2017. The deaths came from suicides, murder, law enforcement, accidents, and undetermined circumstances.

Castro also made a point to name the latest victim of deadly police violence.

Atatiana Jefferson was home in Fort Worth, Texas with her nephew playing video games when neighbors called the police to check up on Jefferson. The officer who killed Jefferson, Aaron Y. Dean, resigned before he could be fired, according to The New York Times and has been charged with murder in the death. It is also reported that there have been six police-involved killings in the Fort Worth area this year.

Beto O’Rourke doubled down on his plan to create a mandatory buyback program of assault rifles.

If someone does not turn in an AR-15 or an AK-47, one of these weapons of war, or brings it out in public and brandishes it in an attempt to intimidate, which we saw when we were at Kent State [University] recently, then that weapon will be taken from them,” former Congressman O’Rourke told the audience when asked about finding the weapons and taking them away. “If they persist, there will be other consequences from law enforcement. But the expectation is that Americans will follow the law.”

Bernie Sanders, fresh from a health scare, let the billionaires have it.

“When you have a half-million Americans sleeping out on the streets today; when you have 87 million people uninsured or under-insured; when you have hundreds of thousands of kids who cannot afford to go to college and millions struggling with the oppressive burden of student debt,” Sanders said. “Then you also have three people owning more wealth than the bottom half of American society, that is a moral and economic outrage and that truth is we cannot afford to continue this level of income and wealth inequality and we cannot afford a billionaire class whose greed and corruption has been at war for 45 years.”

The night was filled with other candidates bringing up issues of the opiate crisis, Russian meddling in American democracy, the need to bring dignity back to jobs, and Biden was confronted about the Ukrainian scandal his son is involved in.

READ: From Gun Reform To Immigration, Here Are The Highlights Of Last Night’s #DemDebate

Bad Bunny And Marc Anthony Will Rebuild Baseball Parks In Puerto Rico Destroyed By Hurricane María

Entertainment

Bad Bunny And Marc Anthony Will Rebuild Baseball Parks In Puerto Rico Destroyed By Hurricane María

badbunnypr / marcanthony / Instagram

While it’s been two years since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, the recovery efforts aren’t finishing anytime soon. Many people on the island are still trying to put their lives back together, which includes rebuilding homes, churches, and schools. What many might not know is the recovery efforts have also included revitalizing baseball fields on the island where Puerto Ricans once played. 

Among the destruction that both Hurricanes Irma and Maria left in 2017 is more than 300 small league baseball parks that were found inoperative. As a result, many community ball programs were essentially eliminated and youths on the island were essentially left in the dark without fields to play the sport.

Leading the revitalization efforts are Puerto Rico’s own two native sons: Bad Bunny and Marc Anthony. The duo, along with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a U.S. community development non-profit, has teamed up for a new program called Play Ball Again. The purpose of the initiative will be to help rebuild some of those damaged baseball fields and facilitate local programming for 17,500 youth. It is expected that in total, about 300 facilities will be impacted by this initiative. 

The duo hopes the contributions play a huge role in bringing not only baseball back to the island but a place where people can escape from their worries. 

Credit: @laguerradelbsn / Twitter

The initiative is special to both of them not only because they’re helping youth but they hoping these recovery efforts go a long way in bringing back a sense of community. Maestro Cares Foundation, which Anthony owns, is putting money towards the program with a goal of restoring “normalcy” in Puerto Rico.

“Sports and recreation activities help restore a sense of normalcy, in the wake of disasters,” Anthony, who is among the program’s earliest supporters, said in a press release.” Baseball isn’t just a game in this context. It helps young people do better in school and improves family life and health in difficult circumstances.”

Maestro Cares, along with the Good Bunny Foundation and UNICEF USA, will all be putting forth $300,000 of what LISC expects to be more than $1.6 million in baseball field renovations. Joining the efforts is Chicago Cubs second baseman Javi Baez with his Cubs Charities, which will donate an additional $100,000 in support. This also includes the Kohler Company, which made a donation to fund bathroom fixtures for onsite facilities.

“Two years after these devastating storms, the need to rebuild the island remains strong,” Báez, whose family is from the Bayamón area, said in a press release. “Cubs Charities understood the need and has stepped up to the plate to help restore baseball fields and give kids throughout Puerto Rico the opportunity to play the game. This rebuild will make a big difference for the community, and I am proud to continue my efforts to restore the island.”

The recovery efforts in Puerto Rico have been long and tiresome but the fuel behind the revitalization has always been the people. 

 Credit: UNICEF / MAESTRO CARES

While time may have passed, many on the island of Puerto Rico are still trying to get back on their feet. For Bad Bunny, he knows firsthand the power that activities like baseball have on youth. Growing up, baseball was part of his life and much of his time was spent at many of the ballparks that were destroyed in 2017. 

“Growing up on the island I spent a lot of time in some of these parks that are now destroyed,” says Bad Bunny, whose Good Bunny Foundation is part of the initiative. “In parks similar to these, a lot of great athletes like Roberto Clemente, Yadier Molina, Roberto Alomar, Edgar Martinez, and Ivan Rodriguez grew up. Our commitment is to rebuild these parks so that we can help new athletes grow. This is the first step for the rebirth of sports within the island.”

The rebirth of Puerto Rico is taking time but in that process, there is a sense that an even stronger community will come out of this disaster. While simple things like baseball may not seem significant, it’s a part of the fabric of Puerto Rico and displays the love that is shared playing on a field. This rebirth has already started as construction on the baseball field is underway and most field renovations are set for completion by the 2020 season.

READ: The Death of Four-Year-Old Noah Cuatro Has Rocked the Los Angeles Community As They Come to Grips With the Failure of Child Protective Services