En­cour­age, en­gage and en­er­gize Puerto Ri­can vot­ers

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - OPINION - By Manuel Cidre Guest Colum­nist Manuel Cidre is the founder and pres­i­dent of Los Cidrines, a mar­ket leader in the sale, dis­tri­bu­tion, and man­u­fac­tur­ing of bak­ery prod­ucts in Puerto Rico. Cidre is a for­mer in­de­pen­dent can­di­date for gov­er­nor of Puerto Rico

Ef­forts to in­crease voter par­tic­i­pa­tion, in­clud­ing reg­is­ter­ing Puerto Ri­can vot­ers and en­sur­ing the com­mu­nity get to the polls on Nov. 6, have ramped up with less than two weeks left un­til Elec­tion Day.

Grass­roots or­ga­ni­za­tions like Alianza for Progress, Or­ga­nize Florida, among oth­ers, have been the cat­a­lysts for these ef­forts. But, other forces would make an even more sig­nif­i­cant im­pact, and that is the busi­ness com­mu­nity and busi­ness lead­ers through­out Florida and Puerto Rico. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of busi­nesses to step up to the plate and en­force how im­por­tant get­ting out the vote is.

With 3.3 mil­lion Puerto Ri­cans on the is­land, a vote in Florida for a can­di­date run­ning for Con­gress, gov­er­nor, and other lo­cal, state, and na­tional of­fices will de­ter­mine the pri­or­i­ties and Puerto Rico's fu­ture — is­sues like re­cov­er­ing from Hur­ri­cane Maria and re­build­ing the is­land. We need other lead­ers in the busi­ness sec­tor to join ef­forts and take on more re­spon­si­bil­ity be­cause they have the re­sources and op­por­tu­nity to help cast a wider net when reach­ing out to Puerto Ri­cans.

The fact of the mat­ter is that the right to vote is the most valu­able tool a cit­i­zen has, and with­out uti­liz­ing it, a per­son de­val­ues its worth in this coun­try. I hate to sound harsh and blunt, but it's the truth. If you turn your back on vot­ing in an elec­tion, you're turn­ing your back on this coun­try, your fam­ily, your neigh­bors, your friends. You are let­ting his­tory re­peat it­self. Un­for­tu­nately, Puerto Ri­cans on the is­land do not have a voice when it comes to pres­i­den­tial and con­gres­sional elec­tions, there­fore Puerto Ri­cans in Florida -- and through­out the coun­try -- must vote for those on the Is­land who are voice­less.

The busi­ness com­mu­nity has been a group who some­times are hes­i­tant to get in­volved in civic en­gage­ment be­cause they are afraid it can hurt their bot­tom line. How­ever, cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als in the busi­ness world un­der­stand their civic duty does not only in­clud­ing cast­ing a vote every elec­tion but help­ing those who are not en­tirely fa­mil­iar with the process.

I've been a busi­ness­man in Puerto Rico for 40 years. I've com­mit­ted my­self to help serve in mul­ti­ple com­mu­nity and phil­an­thropic or­ga­ni­za­tions. I ran for of­fice in 2016 know­ing how dif­fi­cult it would be to win. I un­der­stand how crit­i­cal get­ting peo­ple to vote is and also know the dif­fi­cul­ties that come with it.

In 2016, Puerto Ri­cans in Florida saw great suc­cesses with the elec­tion of Boricuas to fed­eral and state of­fice. That's why I'm rais­ing my voice to make sure we con­tinue build­ing on that suc­cess. In these up­com­ing midterm elec­tions, Puerto Ri­cans who made Florida home af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria have a unique op­por­tu­nity to send a strong mes­sage about the im­por­tance of Puerto Rico. Equally as im­por­tant, busi­ness lead­ers can show their com­mu­ni­ties that they grasp the ur­gency of that mes­sage and make ar­range­ments so em­ploy­ees can ex­er­cise their right to vote. We can use our plat­forms as busi­ness lead­ers and job cre­ators to en­cour­age early vot­ing and vote by mail, or al­low for flex­i­ble sched­ules on Elec­tion Day.

That is the ap­proach Puerto Ri­can busi­ness lead­ers like my­self are tak­ing. I be­lieve the Puerto Ri­can vote is crit­i­cal, and uti­liz­ing your vote to elect lead­ers who can ad­vo­cate and fight for is­sues es­sen­tial to the com­mu­nity is what the elec­toral process is all about.

Re­speta Mi Gente, a coali­tion of ad­vo­cacy, civil rights, faith and civic en­gage­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions, an­nounced in a me­dia call that it had as­sisted in reg­is­ter­ing over 57,000 Lati­nos. Now, the group is ask­ing vot­ers who have regis­tered to pledge to vote on or be­fore Elec­tion Day on Nov. 6 -and I'm dou­bling down on that re­quest.

I am also ask­ing those in the busi­ness com­mu­nity to join me in these ef­forts. By us­ing the nu­mer­ous re­sources it has in Florida, Puerto Rico, and across the coun­try, the busi­ness com­mu­nity can en­hance voter par­tic­i­pa­tion in this elec­tion, in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and in elec­tions go­ing for­ward. The Puerto Ri­can com­mu­nity in Florida, the state of Florida, and the na­tion will greatly ben­e­fit from it.

/RED HUBER / OR­LANDO SENTINEL

Puerto Ri­cans who made Florida home af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria have a unique op­por­tu­nity to send a strong mes­sage about the im­por­tance of Puerto Rico, and busi­nesses should en­cour­age them to vote, says guest colum­nist Manuel Cidre.

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