Things That Matter

Puerto Rico Could Be Left Without A Governor As The Woman Next In Line Doesn’t Want The Job

Puerto Ricans have set a shining example of what peaceful political reform and patriotism looks like in a democracy. After two weeks of ongoing protests and a trending hashtag #RickyRenuncia, Governor Ricardo Rossello announced Wednesday, July 24, that he is resigning August 2. Dozens of officials involved in the leaked text message scandal that insulted victims of Hurricane Maria, called San Juan’s mayor “una tremenda hija de puta” and specifically blasted their very own Ricky Martin with homophobic slurs, has left Puerto Rico with few existing options to take Rossello’s seat.

Former Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín would have been instated as governor, but he has also resigned as complicit in the scandal. The woman next in line would be Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez, but Puerto Rico isn’t having it. The very same day as Rossello’s announcement, a new hashtag was born: #WandaRenuncia. Yesterday, she announced that she doesn’t want the job.

Even amidst the #WandaRenuncia protests, Rossello posted this photo op with Vázquez.

@ricardorossello / Instagram

He captioned the photo, “Discussing the transition with the Secretary of Justice, Wanda Vázquez.” If officials ever thought Puerto Ricans were disengaged from politics, it’s clearer than ever that they won’t get away with much anymore.

Puerto Ricans have a list of officials they want ousted, though Vázquez has tried to maintain her innocence in the alleged scandal.

@ajplus / Twitter

Vázquez is under fire from the public for not calling an investigation into the mismanagement of money and supplies for Hurricane Maria victims. On Friday, Vázquez said that much of the complaints are based in misinformation, and that she is legally bound to keep certain cases private.

Vázquez believes that her loss of public favor is due to the “agenda of some” to “destabilize the government.”

@newslink7com / Twitter

“The vicious attacks on my personal and professional integrity continue,” Vázquez said Friday. “The desire and agenda of some to try to undermine my credibility at this moment of transcendental importance to Puerto Rico and to destabilize the governmental order is evident.”

Another massive protest was planned for today, this time against Vázquez.

@ajplus / Twitter

The focus since Rossello’s resignation had already shifted to Vázquez, with Old San Juan sounding like this: “Wanda Vazquez no te vistas que no vas, llevate a la junta, Johnny Mendez y Tomas Rivera Schatz.”

Still, the day before the major protest scheduled, Vázquez announced that she won’t be filling in for Rossello. We’ll see if that’s enough for the Puerto Rican people.

Puerto Ricans feel betrayed by their government and empowered to change it in the largest limpia in Puerto Rican history.

@APESSHIT / Twitter

In fact, it was the FBI that eventually arrested six officials on charges of conspiracy and other crimes involved with the millions of dollars in Medicaid and education funds funneled away from the Puerto Rican people.

Puerto Ricans not only reject Vázquez as Governor–they want her to resign from her current position as well.

Claro, Puerto Ricans are getting creative in their efforts to get Vázquez’ resignation.

@RobbyCortes / Twitter

One Twitter user tries to explain this image: “Creative protests continue. This one is odd to explain but I’ll try in this thread.PRican TV icon and weatherperson @SusanSoltero used social media to call for a mass rolling down El Morro’s hill to call for Wanda Vázquez’s resignation before she becomes governor. #WandaRenuncia”

It’s written on San Juan’s walls, Vázquez: Puerto Rico doesn’t want you anymore.

@viaSimonRomero / Twitter

Many suspect that these protests are much bigger than a simple shift in leadership. It’s a complete government overhaul of the people who are not gente. The RickyLeaks that mocked the deaths of Maria victims has shook la gente, many of whom weren’t ever able to give their family a proper burial amidst the chaos.

Now, Puerto Ricans are warily expecting Rossello to choose his replacement.

@loufor45 / Twitter

With the Secretary of State position left vacant, Rosselló must select a new official, who would then, under Puerto Rican law, would become the governor. After Secretary of State would be the Treasury Secretary. Unfortunately, Puerto rico’s Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés is four years too young to become Governor.

Interim Education Secretary Eligio Hernández is expected to be tapped by Rosselló.

@PulsoEST / Twitter

Hernández replaced former education secretary Julia Keleher, who resigned after her arrest on federal corruption. That would mean that Hernández would be the fourth in line. Will Puerto Rico accept him? Vamos a ver.

Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

Entertainment

Puerto Rican Art Groups Are Getting A Leg Up Thanks To This Foundation Created By The ‘Hamilton’ Family

Flamboyan Foundation / Facebook

Maintaining funding for the arts is a challenging enough task during the best of times. For Puerto Ricans, those “best of times” have long been gone. A backlog of corruption scandals coupled with the most devastating natural disaster in the island’s history has exacerbated the arts organizations resources. Two years after Hurricane Maria’s landfall on Puerto Rico, hope for maintaining the culture and arts of Boricuas has arrived.

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeffrey Seller, the play’s producer, have partnered with the Flamboyan Foundation to establish an art fund for struggling arts organizations in Puerto Rico.

The Flamboyan Foundation was established just earlier this year, funded by ticket sales from “Hamilton.”

@theatermania / Twitter

Even better, the $14.7 million that was raised for the fund were all raised by Puerto Ricans. The “Hamilton” cast and crew up and went to Puerto Rico for a 17-day run. The Flamboyan Foundation, named after the flamboyán tree native to Puerto Rico, established the arts fund in 2018. “The Flamboyan Arts Fund is an extension of our deep commitment to ensuring that Puerto Rico is thriving economically and socially,” Flamboyan Puerto Rico Executive Director Carlos J. Rodríguez-Silvestre said in a statement. “We cannot be more excited to partners with our 12 inaugural grant recipients as well as the new grantees that we will welcome following this round of applications.  This is just the beginning!”

So far, at least 12 grant recipients have been named.

@ElNuevoDia / Twitter

“It’s the first time that we have funds guaranteed for the beginning of the year so it’s been very important, Lolita Villanúa, executive director of Andanza told NBC News. Andanza is a dance company and school that has been giving back to Puerto Rico since 1998, but not without struggles. “The search for funds has always been very difficult,” she said. One year, the government gave Andanza just $8,000 for a full year of operations.

Villanúa felt the grant “was like a big prize on our 20th anniversary because we [have been] working tirelessly and intensely for the country.”

The trickle-down effect goes to benefit young scholarship students.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

One Andanza dance student, Paola Morales López is just 15 years old and wants to make a career out of dancing. “I feel super grateful because I see that they support me and that they believe in me,” Morales López told NBC News. “Andanza is like my second family.” Another 18-year-old ballet student, Gabriela Arroyo, said that, “Dance has helped me. It’s a form to escape reality, and it’s also a way to stay healthy.”

Of course, the “Hamilton” funds will also go to help local theaters stay open.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

Another grant went to a collective of seven artists who started the San Juan theater company, Y No Había Luz (“And There Was No Light”) when they were just students at the University of Puerto Rico. For the last 15 years, the group has continued to stay open, using their literal theater platform to advocate for social change and to humanize Boricuas.

Without the grant, Puerto Ricans may have never witnessed a play centered around an ancient tree that fell during Hurricane Maria.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

Y No Había Luz created the play “Centinela de Mangó,” which retells the experience of the town of Orocovis, which survived Hurricane Maria only to find the tree that symbolized the island’s identity had fallen. The company has been able to bring the play to New York City, as well, where many Hurricane Maria victims were directed by FEMA. The company wants to turn the story into a children’s book, forever immortalizing the tree’s meaning into words that will be passed down for generations.

With rent paid, the art grant recipients can dream even bigger.

@ynohabialuz / Twitter

“For three years I can plan and create a healthier structure for my team. I can make dreams more long-term,” Yari Helfeld of Y No Había Luz told NBC News. She added, “My dad always told us that we should do what we wanted and not let anyone tell you what to do.” Thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and the “Hamilton” family, dreams are being made a reality for art directors and young children alike. The arts will have a safe home in Puerto Rico for the foreseeable future.

READ: Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

Things That Matter

Puerto Rico, Still Recovering From Hurricane Maria, Is Losing Recovery Dollars To Fund Part Of The Border Wall

realdonaldtrump / Instagram

When Donald Trump began his campaign for president, one — if not the most important — promise he made was that Mexico would pay for the border wall. Trump’s border wall, which would extend throughout the south as a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, has been his No. 1 mission as president of the United States. Now, four years after making this promise, Mexico has still not paid a single cent for the construction of any such barrier that has been built or will be built. 

In order for Trump’s border wall to get constructed, he’s still very short on funds, and since Mexico is obviously not going to pay, the president is taking money away from Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery budget. 

Credit: @Nicolemarie_A / Twitter

Trump has allocated $400 million to go toward building the wall and will take it directly from funds that were intended to help Puerto Rico and their hurricane recovery. The Department of Defense announced that several hurricane-related projects in Puerto Rico would be halted because their funding would be diverted to building the border wall. Some of those projects include a National Guard Readiness Center, a Power Substation/Switching Station Building, and an Aircraft Maintenance Hangar in San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

According to NBC News, a senior Defense official said that people shouldn’t worry because these projects in Puerto Rico will get done, eventually. “We don’t see ourselves delaying those projects. We’re fully committed to that recovery,” the official said since many of them wouldn’t begin until 2020.

The president still needs billions more for the wall, at least $25 billion more, so he’s taking money from various military sources in the U.S. and its territories. The total amount he’s diverting is $3.6 billion.

Credit: @ChrisLu44 / Twitter

Aside from Puerto Rico, 117 other military construction projects will be halted and/or delayed now because of funds. People might assume diverting funds away from Puerto Rico’s recovery or other sources isn’t a big deal because it doesn’t seem like tangible needs. However, people familiar with the military centers and operations know that it is a huge deal and almost appears like robbery by the highest level office. 

“I visited the current RPA training facility at Holloman earlier this year. The building is falling apart, with some equipment being held together with duct tape. To say this facility, which supports training for 100 percent of the Air Force’s MQ-9 crews, urgently needs to be replaced would be an understatement,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in a statement, according to NBC News. 

Other projects losing funds include $160 million of construction projects at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; $85 million operations facility at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico;  $40 million for an information systems facility at White Sands Missile Facility, and much more. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is planning to file a lawsuit to prohibit Trump from taking $3.6 billion away from Puerto Rico and the rest of the country and territories. 

Credit: @ACLU / Twitter

“The fact that the government sat on these so-called ’emergency funds’ for seven months further confirms that this is nothing but an unlawful power grab,” ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said in a statement, according to The Hill. “We’ll be back in court very soon to block Trump’s latest effort to raid military funds for his xenophobic wall,” he added.

Despite claiming that Mexico would pay for the wall for years, Trump already said that he didn’t mean that literally. 

Credit: @realDonaldTrump / Twitter

In January, the president tried to backtrack four years of declarations that Mexico would pay for the wall by insisting that he wasn’t speaking in direct terms but indirectly. We know, it makes no sense.

“When — during the campaign, I would say, ‘Mexico is going to pay for it.’ Obviously, I never said this and I never meant they’re going to write out a check. I said, ‘They’re going to pay for it.’ They are. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made, called the United States, Mexico, and Canada USMCA deal.”

Yes, the president said he never said what he said. We feel a headache coming on. To illustrate how many times Trump said Mexico would pay for the wall, Factbase Inc. listed each of them. He has referenced the border wall at least 456 times

READ: New Border Wall Is Being Constructed In California But It Is Not The Same Border Wall Trump Promised His Voters