Mark-Viverito: Don't let resistance in Congress stall aid to Puerto Rico
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said she and Puerto Rican officials are pressuring President Barack Obama to use executive action to alleviate Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis, arguing that it’s “insufficient” to let Congress stymie efforts to provide assistance.
Mark Viverito, who returned to her native Puerto Rico for the annual fall Somos el Futuro conference, said in an interview with City & State on Friday that Obama should explore taking action on his own, such as deploying the resources of the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury.
“We want to make sure every stone is turned over,” Mark-Viverito said. “There might still be some administrative things that the president can do, and we’re putting pressure on that.”
The speaker said she also supports Obama’s own proposal, which would let Puerto Rico file for bankruptcy, retool Medicaid funding to ensure that it gets a similar amount of resources as states and extend the earned income tax credit to the island’s residents. Whoever succeeds Obama, Mark-Viverito added, also needs to ensure resistance in Congress does not derail aid in Puerto Rico.
“I really don’t think it’s sufficient,” she said of any presidential candidate blaming Congress for inaction. “I’ve been saying that publicly, you know, this is very personal for me. My mother lives here. I grew up here. Many of us have those kinds of ties.”
“This is very real,” Mark-Viverito added. “When the governor of Puerto Rico says to us the other day that he’s going to have to make a decision about whether or not he’s going to pay the nurses or pay police officers or, you know, he has to pay the hedge funds first - that’s real.”
Mark-Viverito, a supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, said that the candidate's views on Puerto Rico factored into her endorsement decision. The speaker said she had conversations with the Clinton campaign about Puerto Rico and Oscar López Rivera. López Rivera is a Puerto Rican nationalist serving a prison sentence on a seditious conspiracy conviction, who has been accused of having ties to what some view as a terrorist organization, but who others view as a freedom fighter. Mark-Viverito is among those who have called for Rivera’s release. However, Mark-Viverito didn’t offer any details about Clinton’s thoughts on López Rivera.
“Obviously, there’s things that I’ve been interested in,” Mark-Viverito said, including immigration and criminal justice reform as well as the Puerto Rico crisis. “She’s been speaking very strongly.”
More generally, the speaker said she was working to elevate Puerto Ricans and other Latino communities’ political influence via the Latino Victory Fund, a national super PAC she co-chairs.
“We want to get more Latino candidates in office,” she said. “Our voice will not be taken for granted, and our vote will not be taken for granted. It’s going to be a decisive vote in the next presidential election.”