Pierluisi gives his first status message in Puerto Rico: more restrictions due to COVID-19, schools and the political status of the island were key issues

SAN JUAN – The governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, announced more restrictive measures to combat the rebound in COVID-19, vaccination for those over 16 years of age starting on the 12th of this month, a reinforcement of initiatives to rebuild the economy and the goal of achieving full annexation to the United States.

Pierluisi offered his first State situation message on Wednesday since he was sworn in in January, a speech before the Legislative Assembly in which he highlighted as a priority the implementation of measures to combat the coronavirus and served to announce the construction of a new Trauma Hospital resistant to earthquakes and other disasters.

“I have not brought magic wands or grandiose promises. What I am bringing you is seriousness, maturity and a firm commitment, ”he highlighted in his speech, during which legislator José Rivera of the opposition Popular Democratic Party (PPD) took out a banner to protest the situation of the schools in the south of the island affected by the 2020 earthquakes, which cannot yet receive students.

The governor, who said that the health situation in the face of COVID-19 is “promising”, did not hesitate to acknowledge a “dangerous rebound” that requires measures so that the pandemic, which has left 2,139 dead and 99,847 infected, does not collect more victims.

To do this, he announced that the curfew will return from this Friday between 10 at night and 5 in the morning, that commercial establishments will close at 9 at night and the prohibition of activities that involve the agglomeration of persons.

Immunizations for those over 16 years of age

He also advanced that it is included in the new executive order that he will issue to stop the rise in infections of COVID-19 the one that from Monday any person older than 16 years can be vaccinated.

“We are fortunate that the United States Government has treated Puerto Rico with equality when it comes to sending us the covid vaccines,” he said.

He stressed that as part of the federal funds assigned to Puerto Rico for the management of the pandemic, 20 million will be allocated for the genomic surveillance program in the Department of Health that allows the different variants of the coronavirus to be identified.

Pierluisi reserved an important part of his speech to the crucial issue of the economy, badly hit by this pandemic and which had already experienced a weakness that continues in a crisis that has lasted for more than a decade.

$ 50 million allocated to the restaurant sector

To alleviate the impact of business closures, he announced that $ 50 million will be allocated for the restaurant and bar industry, another $ 50 million so that face-to-face classes can be resumed at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), $ 15 million for non-profit organizations that provide direct services to citizens and $ 162 million to improve the digital capacity of the Government.

The president recalled that he presented a budget of $ 10,712 million dollars from the General Fund before the Fiscal Oversight Board (JSF), the federal entity of control to the Executive of San Juan.

“Although it is expected that these figures will undergo changes based on the macroeconomic adjustments to the fiscal plan, we will ensure that the budget has the necessary resources for the Government to continue providing the essential services that the people require,” he said.

He highlighted the creation of the State Revolving Fund with $ 750 million, which will allow access to capital to start state and municipal projects.

Regarding economic development, he reiterated his commitment to manufacturing and making Puerto Rico an option of interest for the establishment of a biomedical manufacturing industry worldwide.

Problems in the education sector

He acknowledged the problems facing the public education system, whose work has been interrupted by the earthquakes and the pandemic, after highlighting the reopening of some 100 schools for the first time in a year.

In addition, she indicated that $ 6 million will be allocated to eradicate gender violence and $ 650,000 for the Office of the Ombudsman for Women.

The governor did not forget the issue of the island’s political status and said there is a broad consensus among citizens to “end the colony,” as he understands the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

In this regard, he recalled that in the elections last November – in which a consultation on the status was also held – the option of full integration of the island into the United States was the winner.

“The majority asked for ‘statehood’ – annexation – and we must enforce the will of our people,” he stressed.

While the president spoke inside the chamber of the House of Representatives, several unions were demonstrating, among them the Union of Workers of the Irrigation and Electricity Industry (Utier), to request the cancellation of the contract with LUMA Energy to operate the electricity grid. from June.

Pierluisi defended that contract and argued that handing over the administration of electricity transmission and distribution is part of the transformation necessary to have a modern system.