By Natalia A. Bonilla-Berrios
PUERTO RICO — Governor Luis FortuÃ±o announced this week in his State of the Union address the activation of the National Guard as a preventive action against crime.
“While we take the time to integrate new policemen, the National Guard will help us on preventive patrol -with the Police- in areas of great criminal incidences”, said the Governor.
By January 28, 66 homicides had been reported since the beginning of this year. The popular urge to stop violence has finally been heard after 41 days, still without a Secretary of the Department of Justice and a strong security platform to decrease delinquency on the Island.
FortuÃ±o didnÂ´t clarify which steps the authorities will be taking but he made a reference that all actions will be similar to the New York City security model.
The main goal in 2010 is to approve a local Healthcare Reform that meets the requirements of the population.
While the H1N1 pandemic took prominence in 2009, with the January 12 Haiti earthquake, the FortuÃ±o administration has taken seriously the vulnerability of the nation in case of a similar event.
As a result, the first mandate is assigning the construction of medical emergency bases across all the 78 towns starting this year.
Also, FortuÃ±o signaled the struggle he and Pedro Pierluisi, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico in the U.S. Congress, are having to include the Island in ObamaÂ´s Healthcare Reform.
Currently, the nation receives 17% of Medicaid funds in comparison of the 50% and 85% the 50 States receive. Therefore, FortuÃ±o told the population that “Although we are U.S. citizens, like the residents of the other 50 states, wouldnÂ´t have to ask to be treated as equal” if we were a permanent State.
Statehood vs. Independence
With this argument, he talked about resolving the IslandÂ´s political status and relationship with the United States.
As a colony, Puerto Rico is deciding in an upcoming referendum, H.R. 2499 — a resolution to decide between two opposites: becoming the 51st state or opting for independence.
“ItÂ´s time Washington proceeds with its responsibility…but if Washington doesn’t act, Puerto Rico will,” said FortuÃ±o.
During the hour and a half speech, FortuÃ±o referred to the remarks of U.S. President Barack Obama on the economical core of the country: jobs. Creating employment was his goal for this fiscal year as well as the Governor, who gave a green light to big transportation projects such as: extending the metropolitan urban train from Santurce to Old San Juan; keep building the “Las Americas” Port; and finishing on time the construction of all the facilities for the “Juegos Centroamericanos” Mayaguez 2010 happening this July.
Nonetheless, the unemployment rate doesn’t seem to stop climbing. The present administration has fired over 25,000 employees only to “put the House in order” and lower the State’s debt with the U.S. credit agencies.
There are still 5,000 working places vulnerable for the next final decision which will be made in this trimester.
Learn more about Natalia
Natalia A. Bonilla Berrios is a junior at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) majoring in Journalism and minoring in Political Science, International Relations. Natalia has a 3.90 GPA.
She was the former president of the UPR student chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, a member of the National Society of Collegiates and Scholars and was selected for the ‘Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges’ program, during her freshman year.
In addition, she has worked as an intern reporter for DiÃ¡logo Digital, Puerto Rican Center of Investigative Journalism, served as a staff writer for ParÃ©ntesis newspaper, and as a volunteer reporter for IDentidad magazine.
Bonilla has served as student representative for the Freedom of the Press Center of Puerto Rico and has been selected as one of the UWIRE’s Top 100 Student Journalists of 2009.
She was selected for the Student Camp at Unity 2008, the quadrennial Journalists of Color Convention and also, as a volunteer for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy.