Puerto Rico

Janet Cruz heads to Puerto Rico for relief effort


Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, with Evelio Otero, on Oct. 4. Otero collected more than 2 million pounds of goods for Puerto Ricans.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is headed to Puerto Rico today in conjunction with a relief effort organized by Major League Baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays and Moffitt Cancer Center.

Today’s flight will be the second to Ponce by Cruz, a Tampa Democrat whose ex-husband has family members on the island. She returned from her previous tour in tears, saying she was horrified by the dire conditions Puerto Ricans were living after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory.

Weeks after the storm ravaged the island, more than 80 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power and about a third don’t have water.

According to a press release issued by Cruz’s office this morning, the group will deliver 30,000 pounds of supplies, including food, water and medical necessities.

Cruz and the others also plan to bring back tissue samples “currently on the verge of spoiling that represent years of critical medical research” along with cancer patients and a group of nuns displaced by the storm.

“After disasters, it’s our duty as citizens to look out for each other,” Cruz said in the release. “We all must ensure we are doing everything we possibly can to help our Puerto Rican neighbors recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. I’m proud to have found such incredible partners in Major League Baseball, the Rays, and Moffitt to help aide in this effort.”

Last week, Cruz visited a Tampa warehouse where volunteers, led by Evelio Otero, were collecting items for Puerto Ricans impacted by the storm.

Radios headed to info-starved Puerto Rico, thanks to broadcasters

The National Association of Broadcasters is donating 10,000 battery-operated radios to Puerto Ricans impacted by Hurricane Maria.


Tampa volunteers gathered 2 million pounds of supplies for Puerto Rico last week

The effort is being funded by NAB, the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations, and multiple U.S. broadcasters, according to press release issued by NAB.

The broadcasters are working with FEMA and local Puerto Rican authorities “to ensure that the radios are properly distributed to those most in need,” the release said.

Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and Congressman Darren Soto “were instrumental in coordinating this effort,” according to the release.

Here’s more from thepress release:

“Time and again, broadcast radio has served as a lifeline to communities desperate for information and support,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. “Our fellow Americans in the Caribbean now face a once-in-a-generation humanitarian crisis, and radio is one of the only communications resources available. We admire the resolve of our friends in Puerto Rico and are proud to undertake this effort with help from FEMA to keep citizens safe and informed.”

“We can’t thank NAB, NASBA and our radio brothers and sisters on the U.S. mainland enough for this initiative,” said Puerto Rico Broadcasters Association Executive Director Jose Ribas Dominicci. Raul Santiago Santos, Puerto Rico Broadcasters Association Board President, said, “This is going to be a very long recovery, and Puerto Ricans are information-starved for where to get help. Having local radio in the hands of our citizens will make a real and positive difference for our people.”

Florida Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Pat Roberts spearheaded this initiative on the ground and successfully secured transportation of the radios from Miami to Puerto Rico.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is helping secure a staging ground in Miami for the radios prior to shipment to Puerto Rico, said the crisis “requires our ongoing support and commitment, which is why I’m thankful to the NAB for stepping up to provide critical communications infrastructure. I saw firsthand how the local leadership and residents are eager to restore normal order and the efforts by the NAB and a number of companies in the private sector is what’s making a big difference. I look forward to the continued efforts to aid the great people of Puerto Rico because right now, todos somos Puertorriqueños (‘We are all Puerto Ricans’).”

Dems ask Scott for relief centers to aid in expected Puerto Rican migration

As conditions continue to deteriorate in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, Florida Democratic legislators are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to set up relief centers for Puerto Rican evacuees.

Friday’s ask comes as Scott, who traveled to the island yesterday, meets with President Donald Trump in Washington to give him an update of what’s going on in Puerto Rico and the Sunshine State, still recovering from Hurricane Irma.

The situation in Puerto Rico is growing dire, the Democrats wrote in a letter to Scott.

“Now more than a week removed from Maria’s landfall, nearly 3.4 million Puerto Ricans remain without power, the telecommunications grid for the island is in tatters, citizens are running low on cash due to the lack of functioning ATMs necessary to purchase supplies and are faced with an inability to process debit transactions, and large areas outside urban centers remain inaccessible as roads continue to be blocked by fallen debris or are washed away completely,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, and a handful of House and Senate members wrote to Scott.

The disaster could result in “hundreds of thousands” of evacuees fleeing to Florida, home to more than 1 million Puerto Ricans already, the Democrats wrote.

“To prepare for this influx of hundreds of thousands new Floridians, we believe it is vital that the state respond proactively to ease their transition and reduce the mental and financial strain this process is sure to inflict on many families,” they wrote.

The “relief centers” could provide”one-stop access to local, state, and federal officials who could offer guidance on housing aid and availability and other services, the Democrats suggested.

The request for the relief centers comes a day after Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio called for the “cavalry” — in the form of the U.S. military — to come to the rescue in Puerto Rico.


Miami Beach Mayor Levine headed to Puerto Rico — with 7,000 pounds of supplies

DKlR-5-UQAAWr0XMiami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is heading to Puerto Rico with 7,000 pounds of critical supplies for the beleaguered island to address what he called a “humanitarian crisis”  after Hurricane Maria left the U.S. territory in tatters.

Levine, who hatched the relief effort over the past two days, chartered a cargo plane to deliver the goods. He’ll be joined by state Rep. Robert Asencio, a Miami Democrat, on the trip.

The duo are slated to meet with San Juan Mayor Yulín Cruz and other local officials and tour the damage tomorrow. (Check out these tragic pics posted by BuzzFeed yesterday.)

Aside from the humanitarian motivation for the trip to Puerto Rico, Levine’s visible support for the island won’t hurt if he decides to run for governor next year in Florida. The Sunshine State is home to roughly 1 million residents with ties to the island.

Levine has said he will make a decision on a bid for governor before the end of this year.

By Lloyd Dunkelberger and Dara Kam.

Hispanic Chamber passes the hat for Puerto Rico

With much of Florida still reeling from Hurricane Irma, the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has launched a relief effort for a different disaster.

The chamber is seeking donations for victims of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico this week.

The organization has set a goal of $250,000 for its “Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief” initiative.

The money will be earmarked for emergency supplies such as bottled water, canned goods, dried foods, medication, pillows and blankets, shovels and hammers, and other necessary items, according to a press release issued by the Hispanic chamber Friday.

Florida is home to a growing number of Puerto Ricans, who have abandoned the island as its economic woes worsen. A report issued last year showed that the number of Puerto Ricans in the state grew by 94 percent between 2000 and 2014.

 “The island’s entire 3.5 million population is without power, and many residents need immediate medical relief,” Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said in the release. “It is important we do our part to help alleviate their pain and assist our fellow Americans as they recover and rebuild.”

By Jim Turner.

GOP lawmakers headed to homeland

hp-capitol-flagRepublican state Reps. Rene Plasencia, Bob Cortes and David Santiago are headed to Puerto Rico tomorrow to meet with government officials, according to a press release issued by Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs.

The three-day trip will include visits with the Puerto Rican House speaker, the governor’s chief of staff, and port officials, according to the release.

The three-day trip is “a continuation of the dialogue initiated earlier this year” by Plasencia’s office and will focus on healthcare, trade and the economy, the release said.

“With the population of Puerto Ricans in Florida exceeding 1 million, it is imperative that our two governments have a dialogue on how to address not only the impact that is being felt across all Florida communities, but also on the island of Puerto Rico,” Plasencia, R-Orlando, said.

The Puerto Rican trip comes after officials from the island visited Central Florida earlier this year.

Brevard v. Orlando in Puerto Rico throwdown

State Rep. Bob Cortes sent a letter to the Brevard County Commission urging elected officials to reject a resolution asking the U.S. Congress to block Puerto Rico from becoming the 51st state.

cortes“As a person who is Puerto Rican, and spent many years living in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, I strongly encourage you to vote this resolution down,” Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, wrote.

The resolution — proposed by Commissioner John Tobia, a Melbourne Republican who formerly served in the state House — states that Puerto Rico “is $123 billion in debt,” and that the existing crisis “is, in large part, a result of socializing private industry.”

But in Cortes’s letter to the commission sent Friday, the state rep maintained he was supporting Puerto Rican statehood on behalf of more than 14,000 Puerto Ricans who live in his House District 30, the 1 million-plus Puerto Ricans who live in the state and the more than 5 million who live in the U.S.

Cortes noted that, with 3.5 million residents, Puerto Rico’s population exceeds that of 22 states.

“Support for this resolution sends a message that our exclusive club doesn’t need any new members, that the United States is finished accepting applications for statehood, and that even though Puerto Ricans are Americans the land they live on is not good enough to be included in our United States.