Vice President Mike Pence’s participation in Florida in a political rally of Hispanics in favor of the re-election of President Donald Trump also met Thursday with angry Puerto Ricans who urged the federal government to alleviate the ravages of hurricanes and earthquakes on the island.
The approval of the “Latinos for Trump” coalition, which organized the event in Kissimmee, an epicenter in Florida of the Puerto Rican community displaced by natural disasters, contrasted with the repudiation of the new group “Latinos for Trump” and Puerto Rican community leaders who denounced today before the media the “neglect” of the federal government.
Puerto Ricans urged Pence to disburse the federal resources approved for the recovery of the island after Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017, eliminate the Cabotage Law to reduce the cost of importing products, and “cancel” the million-dollar fiscal debt.
Millie Santiago, one of the founders of the group Pa’lante por Más, told Efe that the 3.5 million Puerto Ricans do not feel the support of the Trump Administration: “It is ignoring and causing more damage and pain to our families than the disasters themselves.
The activists held a press conference a few blocks from the Nation of Faith Church, where Pence proclaimed to some 300 Hispanic Trump members the “need” for four more years of Trump in the White House.
This group of opponents of the president protested with signs with the number “4,645” alluding to “the lives lost due to negligence and lack of urgency and attention to the island,” they said.
The Republican said the government is on the side of Puerto Ricans today, tomorrow, and until the island has recovered, and announced Trump’s signing of the declaration of emergency due to the tremors that affect the island on Thursday.
However, organizations such as Pa’lante por Más, formed by some 200 surviving families of Maria, the Diaspora in Resistance groups, Hispanic Federation, Mi Familia Vota and Vamos4PR asked Pence for “common sense solutions” for the island.
The vice president began his proselytizing tour of Central Florida today in the city of Tampa, where he also arrived by surprise at a restaurant with the Floridian governor, Ron DeSantis, and shared Cuban sandwiches with diners. He then traveled by bus to Orlando and finally to Kissimmee.
There, he was greeted by a huge billboard with the unpopular image of Trump throwing paper towels at Puerto Ricans at the entrance to the city, where Puerto Ricans and Latinos vs. Trump, a coalition formed at the behest of the Florida Democratic Party, preempted the campaign event with denunciations of Trump’s “incompetence.
They criticized everything from the neglect of the Puerto Rican crisis to the challenges facing Latinos in Florida in terms of health and environmental safety, housing and employment.
Pence, for his part, highlighted in a half-hour speech, in which he exalted religious freedom and “Latino values,” Trump’s military, commercial, and labor achievements, including keeping “unemployment among Hispanics at less than 5 percent for twenty consecutive months.
The vice president, who trusted that “Latinos will pave the way” for Trump’s reelection, at one point praised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as “the only legitimate president of Venezuela,” and then shouted “Viva Cuba libre” in Spanish.
“We are with you,” he reiterated to the Puerto Ricans, recalling that there are more than $40 billion available for the island’s recovery.
However, the Puerto Rican groups assured that they do not forgive Trump for “lying” about the more than 3,000 deaths left by Maria, inflating the aid he has destined to the island, withholding resources for recovery, and delaying the declaration of “major disaster” due to the tremors.
Trump signed the document today, five days after Gov. Wanda Vazquez made the request to respond to the damage caused by the seismic activity that has affected the island since Dec. 28th.
Pence asked “Latinos for Trump” to help repeat the victory that the real estate magnate won in 2016 in Florida, a state that beat Democrat Hillary Clinton with the help of 35% of the Hispanic vote.
The Puerto Ricans in Florida, who have already surpassed their compatriots in New York with more than 1.3 million, are shaping up as an influential electorate in a state that can give victory to either party.
This community is largely based in the strategically important I-4 corridor, which includes the city of Orlando, where Trump launched his reelection campaign last June.