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Thu Dec 14, 2017, 12:00 PM

Lin-Manuel Miranda: This is what Puerto Ricans need from the government. Right now.

Source: Washington Post

This is what Puerto Ricans need from the government. Right now.

By Lin-Manuel Miranda December 13 at 7:24 PM

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the Broadway musicals “Hamilton” and “In the Heights,” is a composer, playwright and actor.

Since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico 84 days ago, my Uncle Elvin hasn’t had electricity. You read that right. Eighty-four days without being able to turn on a light, or stock a refrigerator, or take a hot shower. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans on the island cannot do the simple things we all take for granted. Add to this lack of power the destruction of thousands of homes, rural areas still isolated, small businesses not operating and an ever-increasing migration of Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland. It will take a long time for Puerto Rico to be totally functional again under the best of circumstances.

The federal government’s response to the disaster in Puerto Rico has been painfully slow and not commensurate with the hurricane response in Texas and Florida. It reminds me of Ricky Martin’s 1995 song “María.” He sang, “un pasito pa’lante María, un dos tres, un pasito pa’tras.” That’s the reality in Puerto Rico — one step forward, one step backward. We rejoiced when the first package of $5 billion in aid was approved by Congress. But then the House included a 20 percent import tax on products manufactured in foreign jurisdictions in the tax-reform bill it passed in November. Because Puerto Rico would be considered a “foreign jurisdiction” under the bill, this tax would deal a mortal blow to the island’s fragile economy, costing up to 250,000 jobs.

Martin, Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony and so many of my friends in the artistic community can continue to do fundraising activities. We can march on Washington. I can write music and dedicate proceeds to Puerto Rico; Americans from all walks of life can continue to donate, following the examples of the 150,000 who already donated $22 million to the Hispanic Federation relief fund. There’s no shortage of compassion and goodwill for Puerto Rico among the American people. But it must be matched by the recognition of our government that the American citizens of Puerto Rico need, demand and require equal treatment.

I’m much more comfortable writing a song than a political opinion column. Calling members of Congress, knocking on their doors and asking you to do the same is strange territory for me. I can already imagine the online comments: “Stick to entertainment.” I wish I could. But the news is full of scandals and tragedies, and every day is a struggle to keep Puerto Rico in the national conversation.

Puerto Rico needs a lifeline that only Congress and the Trump administration can provide. The list of needed actions is short, straightforward and agreed upon by Puerto Ricans of all political stripes. First, drop the crippling 20 percent excise tax on Puerto Rican products. This is an easy one given that the tax doesn’t exist yet. It can simply be removed from the tax-reform bill right now being finalized in House-Senate conference negotiations.


Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/this-is-what-puerto-ricans-need-from-the-government-right-now/2017/12/13/fc03ccca-dfb3-11e7-8679-a9728984779c_story.html

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