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Puerto Rico Says: Build the Statue, Build 45!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo, File

Editor's note: This column was co-authored by Fernando Jiménez.

In 2010, during the administration of then-Puerto Rico Republican Governor Luis Fortuño and under the leadership of Republican Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and Republican Speaker of the House (currently Puerto Rico’s sole representative in Congress) Jenniffer González Colón, the Walkway of the Presidents was inaugurated on the grounds of the Puerto Rico Capitol building in San Juan.

At that time, the Walkway featured the statues of seven American presidents who had visited the U.S. Caribbean territory during their terms in office. The following year, Barack Obama also visited, and in 2012 his statue, along with one of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose visit had been previously overlooked, were added to the monumental display, which is now a tourist stop of interest for many visitors to San Juan.

Currently, the Walkway is missing a statue commemorating the visit of President Donald Trump who -- unlike former President Bill Clinton who did not visit Puerto Rico after Category Four Hurricane Georges hit the island in 1998 -- did visit Puerto Rico less than two weeks after Category Four Hurricane María made landfall on the island.

Due to the insolvency of the territorial government, which has been under federal fiscal supervision since 2016, expenses for non-essential public services and public works have been curtailed, and the current Puerto Rico Legislative Assembly’s lack of action to both commission and put in place the pending Trump statue has been blamed on this reality.

In view of the above, it is only fitting that patriotic citizens, both in Puerto Rico and throughout the United States, unite to contribute the funds necessary to build and inaugurate a statue of President Trump along Puerto Rico’s Walkway of the Presidents. It costs approximately $25,000 to build each of the current nine bronze statues honoring the presidents in Puerto Rico.

To cover all the costs of completing and inaugurating the statue of President Trump, the Republican National Hispanic Assembly and the College Republicans of Puerto Rico have launched the joint GoFundMe campaign Build 45!, to which everyone is invited to contribute, in whatever amount they would like, until we reach the $45,000 goal.

President Trump visited Puerto Rico in its greatest time of need, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane María. This was in marked contrast to President Obama, who spent most of his time during his 2011 visit politicking with the Democrat candidate for governor who subsequently drove Puerto Rico into default, and attending a DNC fundraiser at a swank hotel.

Contrary to the fake news narrative peddled by the liberal media, when it comes to Puerto Rico, President Trump has been extraordinarily attentive and generous, including seven meetings with Puerto Rico’s Democrat Governor, Ricardo Rosselló. The reality is that Puerto Rico received extra-generous treatment from President Trump who, given the fiscal mess in the territory, decided to waive the normal 25% requirement for local government cost-sharing of emergency recovery work and authorized 100% federal funding of that work for nearly a year.

During the first six months following the disaster, total FEMA funding for Puerto Rico reached $9.9 billion, more than the entire annual budget of the island’s central government, and more than any other disaster in U.S. history at that same point in time, with the exception of Hurricane Katrina.

The Trump administration’s supply of food and water for Puerto Rico (including paying for the vast majority of the work on the island done by Chef José Andrés) was the largest and longest domestic air and sea mission of food, water, commodities and electrical generators in U.S. history.

Altogether, it is projected that Puerto Rico will benefit from $91 billion in federal disaster recovery aid, including $20 billion in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development community development block grants, the largest allocation of that type in the agency’s history.

It is also worth keeping in mind that the statues in Puerto Rico’s Walkway of the Presidents do not represent an official endorsement of the policy record of each of the various presidents, but rather simply commemorate the historical fact of their visits to the United States of America’s largest remaining territory.

President Obama, for example, failed to honor his stated pledge to “enable the question of Puerto Rico’s status to be resolved” during his first term or achieve parity for Puerto Rico in federal health care programs, but the statue commemorating his official visit in 2011 stands nonetheless, as do those of all of his predecessors.

Finally, no matter what Trump’s detractors say, following the horrific hurricane of 2017, Puerto Rico is being rebuilt better than it was before, and that rebuilding is due in no small part to the actions of President Trump, who has repeatedly expressed his abiding love for the people of Puerto Rico.

On September 27, 2017, Trump declared, “Puerto Rico is very important to me, and Puerto Rico—the people are fantastic people. I grew up in New York, so I know many people from Puerto Rico. I know many Puerto Ricans. And these are great people, and we have to help them.”

That is why it is now entirely fitting that patriotic Americans in Puerto Rico and elsewhere undertake this joint campaign to build and facilitate the inauguration of a historic commemorative statue of President Trump on Puerto Rico’s Walkway of the Presidents.

A native of San Juan, Jo-Ann Chase is chairwoman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Virginia. Fernando Jiménez is president of the College Republican Federation of Puerto Rico.

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