By ALFREDO ALVARADO
Union activists from District Council 37, 32 BJ SEIU, and the Communication Workers of America joined elected officials at a rally at Foley Square in downtown Manhattan, demanding President Donald J. Trump and the federal government step up their recovery operations in Puerto Rico and cancel the island’s $72 billion debt.
“We can’t afford to waste any more time,” said DC 37 and Local 1549 president Eddie Rodriguez at the lunchtime rally, across the street from Federal Plaza. “Our brothers and sisters on the island desperately need our help now.”
Like many Puerto Ricans throughout the United States, Rodriguez has been unable to contact family members who live on the island. Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma and destroyed the island’s power grid.
The Oct. 4 rally was organized by Vamos4PR, a coalition of union and community activists.
“The recovery effort has not been fast enough,” said Shirley Aldebol, vice president of 32 BJ SEIU. “We still have people without potable water and electricity.”
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz also attended and thanked New Yorkers for their generous donations, which his office on Southern Boulevard collected. “We had young people, old people, Muslims, Latinos, everyone coming to make their donations and help the people of Puerto Rico.”
Diaz also called for the cancelation of Puerto Rico’s debt and more federal aid from Washington–“just like they did for Texas, Florida and New Orleans.” he said.
State Sen. Gustavo Rivera, whose parents live in Puerto Rico, also called for the cancelation of the debt.
“Now is the time for Mr. Trump to show his negotiating skills he boasts so much about and deliver for the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.