Dear President Obama,
Bienvenidos a la isla del encanto! Welcome to the island of enchantment! Since your last visit to Puerto Rico back in 2008, as a presidential hopeful, it seems like much of the world has changed. Unfortunately, one would be remiss to say things have made a turn for the better. This small island which measures at just 100 x 35 miles, as you are aware, has been in a recession way before it hit the mainland U.S. I won't bore you with the statistics, as I'm sure your advisors have briefed you in on this already, but the economic outlook hasn't been looking too bright for quite some time. It is said that your upcoming visit is to focus, aside from garnering more Puerto Rican votes on the mainland, on the island's political status. Do not be fooled by those who insist that this is the most pressing issue on the agenda, because it isn't, despite what is stated in the 2011 Presidential Task Force Report.
The voter participation rate during the previous political status referendums have historically always been lower when compared to gubernatorial elections. Although the last referendum was held more than 10 years ago, back in 1998, the political status of the island vis-a-vis the U.S remains to be a topic that is the least of concern for most who live on the island. The reason why this is such a divisive issue is because the island itself is so ambivalent about it. In the end, to use a phrase coined by another prominent Democrat during his presidential campaign, "It's the economy, stupid." Just as in the mainland, the lack of jobs and the sluggish economy is what worries most people on the island as well.
Puerto Rico is a place with tremendous economic potential, it is considered a gateway between the U.S and Latin America, but the government must help in laying a firm foundation so as to build a brighter future. One of my father's perennial complaints, as an entrepreneur, was the egregious bureaucracy of the Puerto Rican government which has stifled commerce, and in general, the economy. If you are sincere in wanting to help the island overcome its economic stagnation, don't just simply shove money into programs such as the Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico (aka "PAN" or "cupones"). Instead, help improve the island's dilapidated public education system, promote scientific research and development, and make the island a better place to do business in order to create a more vibrant economy. Focus on areas in which you'll get the greatest bang for your taxpayer buck, and get the highest possible return on investment. As you well know, small businesses and startups are the two key engines in creating jobs. Some of the island's economic troubles are quite similar to those we see happening in many states on the mainland, i.e the laying off of thousands of public employees, an underfunded public pension system and increasing budget woes, just to name a few.
As you'll be hobnobbing with a select group of benefactors, some of whom can afford to fork out over $35,000 for the mere opportunity to see you, please be aware that the majority of us who live on the island have quite a long list of concerns which may be quite different from theirs. I understand that you are a very busy man, and that you face enough problems on the mainland as it is. Despite what many critics have said, it has been 50 years since a sitting U.S President has visited the island. Your visit is quite symbolic, and quite indicative of the growing importance of the Latino vote. I thank you for taking the time for coming to la isla del encanto.
(Note: the image above was obtained from www.endi.com)