Americans have long valued the idea that each and every one of us deserves equal economic opportunity, and an equal shot at making life better for ourselves, our families and our communities. Puerto Ricans are no different.
Yet as a U.S. territory rather than a full state, Puerto Rico has some special challenges in recovering from hurricanes, earthquakes and COVID-19.
There is a connection between Puerto Rico and Iowa. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees and evaluates funding for critical Puerto Rican programs. I lived in Iowa for 15 years. I know and share the Iowa spirit of good government, goodwill for our fellow Americans and a sense that accountability is not in conflict with these values; rather, accountability is a critical component of these values. I know the only way to ensure federal tax dollars are well spent and to ensure Puerto Ricans most in need are well helped is to open our process up. Let the press, the policymakers and the people in to see what is really going on. Sunlight, as the saying goes, is truly the best disinfectant.
I also know these Iowa values live in the heart of Sen. Grassley. In his role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he carries the responsibility to ensure our tax dollars are well spent. He is rightly concerned about misuse of funds in Puerto Rico. Yet the people of Puerto Rico have, in recent years, suffered more than most Americans due to our natural disasters. The bad actions of a few politicians in Puerto Rico should not cut off desperately needed relief for our people. Sen. Grassley, in his position as chairman, is in a unique position to investigate any misuse of funds and help Puerto Rico become a model for the world.
Puerto Ricans are not only facing a protracted recession and the imposition of a fiscal board that has imposed numerous measures of austerity resulting in unbearable economic burdens on an impoverished population. Puerto Rico finds itself in an untenable situation which is worsened by the corruption and ineptitude of our current government officials.
I appreciate the interest of Sen. Grassley in obtaining accountability from the Puerto Rican government as reflected in his letter to the governor of Puerto Rico on April 20. The truth is that there have been, as he notes, numerous questionable instances of misuse of funds. Puerto Rico’s governor is trying to turn the tables, once again, to make the matter political and present Puerto Ricans with a narrative that seeks to vilify the senator as attacking the people of Puerto Rico. The truth is that Puerto Ricans and Grassley deserve answers.
I invite Grassley and members of the media to come to Puerto Rico and to personally see what is happening. Help Puerto Rico to open up the process, shed light on the wrongdoing and ensure American tax dollars are used wisely.
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I also invite the Iowa values Grassley represents so well in Washington, D.C. to help put Puerto Rico and her people back on track. More than a handout, what they really want is an equal shot, an equal economic opportunity at the American dream. After all, we too are American citizens.
Zayira Jordán is a candidate for Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in Washington, D.C., the only representative Puerto Rico has in Congress.