Vice President Joe Biden didn’t hold back when lambasting the Trump administration’s mishandling of Puerto Rico in an op-ed for the Orlando Sentinel. Biden called for an overhaul of the federal government’s treatment of the territory, insisting that Puerto Ricans are American citizens and should be treated as such.
The former vice president suggested Trump unleashed “the evils of bigotry and callous inhumanity,” with his response to Hurricane Maria. He also called for increasing the minimum wage to $15, creating a federally sourced technical infrastructure for the island in much need of rebuilding, and tripling funding for Title I schools
Placing the opinion piece in a local Florida paper may demonstrate Biden’s campaign efforts to reach Latinx voters, considering the high population of Latinxs with Carribean ancestry in the state. Following the release of his plan, 25 Puerto Rican leaders endorsed his candidacy.
Governor Alejandro García Padilla and 24 other Puerto Rican elected officials in Florida including state Rep. Amy Mercado, D-Orlando, and state Sen. Vic Torres, D-Kissimmee endorsed Biden today, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Biden wants to provide structure to a Hurricane Maria-wrecked Puerto Rico.
Among calling out his callousness, Biden said Trump “abandoned his responsibility” to provide aid and recovery support to the island after Hurricane Maria.
“His behavior after Maria — lying about relief efforts, blocking aid, mocking survivors, robbing the island of the assistance it’s legally entitled to — is a stain on our nation. His actions insult the memory of the estimated nearly 3,000 souls who died during and after the storm, as well as the over one million who have struggled without power in the wreckage,” Biden wrote in the Orlando paper.
The VP called for a federal effort to rebuild the island along with the trust of the U.S. citizens who live there. Biden praises the fortitude and mobilizations of Puerto Ricans who have continued to speak truth to power and sought to repair an island wounded by governmental neglect and natural disasters.
If elected, Biden will create a federal working group to provide resources and technical support to the island.
“To ensure that supporting Puerto Rico is an Administration-wide priority, the working group will consist of advisers designated by each federal agency and led by a point person who will report directly to me,” he wrote.
Biden wants mainland companies to invest in Puerto Rico.
A special section of the VP’s $1.3 trillion infrastructure plan along with efforts to get mainland companies to invest in Puerto Rico will fund roads, bridges, powerlines, and broadband access to the island, while providing tens of thousands of new jobs, according to Biden. A part of this plan is also investing in entrepreneurs who already live on the island.
“I will expand programs that support island entrepreneurs and small businesses, like the State Small Business Credit Initiative, which has drawn tens of millions of dollars in new investment on the island, and programs that will further ignite economic growth like the New Markets Tax Credit program,” Biden wrote.
Biden’s plan, like many candidates, is moderate and uses the language of fostering change without really using the necessary language of reckoning with the past.
Does Biden support statehood in Puerto Rico? It’s unclear.
As Latino Rebels noted in his plan, there is “no specific mention of Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, the island-colony’s Fiscal Control Board or current reframing or revisiting of PROMESA, including a cancellation of debt. It also makes no mention of the Jones Act or its possible repeal. The words ‘colony’ or ‘colonialism’ aren’t in the opinion piece either. Neither are words like ‘statehood’ or ’51st state.’”
PR51st does, however, note that in 2012 Biden seemed to support statehood and encouraged Puerto Ricans to fight for statehood.
“I have always found Puerto Rico’s current political status as something very bizarre. My word of advice to you, and all Puerto Ricans, is that you continue to fight hard until you reach your goal of equality, and we shall act,” Biden said in 2012.
PR51st says Biden “probably does” support statehood. In the Washington Post’s assessment of candidates’ stances, Biden is the only candidate labeled “unclear/no response.” The three other major frontrunners Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg are in the “let them decide” column.
Biden ends his op-ed with a call to defeat Trump as the only path forward for any chance to save Puerto Rico in the near future at all.
“So we must defeat Donald Trump. It’s the foundation on which every other policy, and every hope of progress across our nation, depends. It’s the single most important political act that we, together as Americans, can take — to rebuild Puerto Rico, and to rescue the character of our nation,” he wrote.