Pa­rade to high­light strug­gles, too

Is­land dev­as­tated by hur­ri­cane still with­out full power

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - NATION / WORLD - By Deepti Ha­jela As­so­ci­ated Press New York

There will be floats, mu­si­cians and brightly col­ored cos­tumes Sun­day when the Puerto Ri­can

Day Pa­rade makes its way along Fifth Av­enue, as there al­ways are.

But amid all the fun and cel­e­bra­tion, or­ga­niz­ers and par­tic­i­pants want to keep a spot­light on some­thing se­ri­ous — that months af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria roared over Puerto Rico, and as the next hur­ri­cane sea­son ar­rives, the U.S. is­land ter­ri­tory is still strug­gling.

“This is a year where Puerto Rico has been dev­as­tated,” said Louis Mal­don­ado, chair­man of the board that over­sees the pa­rade and its af­fil­i­ated events. “We need to keep that part of the con­ver­sa­tion.”

Those watch­ing the pa­rade in per­son will see that in the march­ing con­tin­gents, in­clud­ing one made up of peo­ple who are on the U.S. main­land only be­cause they were dis­placed from their homes on the is­land, he said.

The pa­rade will also honor first re­spon­ders and oth­ers who stepped up to help with both emer­gency ef­forts and on­go­ing re­cov­ery work, as well as rec­og­niz­ing David Beg­naud, the CBS News jour­nal­ist who has earned praise for his ex­tended re­port­ing about con­di­tions on the is­land.

For those watch­ing via the live broad­cast, Mal­don­ado said, there will be guests talk­ing about the is­sues, as well as spe­cific seg­ments fo­cused on par­tic­u­lar is­sues, like the plight of teach­ers on the is­land or en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

This year’s pa­rade comes a year af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial one, when the pa­rade or­ga­ni­za­tion’s de­ci­sion to rec­og­nize Os­car Lopez Rivera, a for­mer mem­ber of a mil­i­tant group re­spon­si­ble for a se­ries of bomb­ings, led some spon­sors to with­draw their sup­port and some politi­cians like Gov. An­drew Cuomo de­cline to take part.

Cuomo has been an out­spo­ken pro­po­nent of the need to help Puerto Rico af­ter the Septem­ber storm and is ex­pected to take part in this year’s event.

“Peo­ple have re­ally turned the page on ev­ery­thing that hap­pened last year,” Mal­don­ado said.

He also said that, at least on the pa­rade board’s part, this year’s fo­cus on the is­land’s re­cov­ery needs would be about the is­sues, and “not about the pol­i­tics.”

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has been crit­i­cized by op­po­nents for its han­dling of the hur­ri­cane’s af­ter­math; for in­stance, eight months later, full power has yet to be re­stored. A re­cent study from Har­vard Univer­sity es­ti­mated there were up to 4,600 more deaths than usual in the three months af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria, although some in­de­pen­dent ex­perts ques­tioned the meth­ods and the num­ber in that study.

The of­fi­cial federal death toll is at 64.

At least one pa­rade par­tic­i­pant, Bronx Bor­ough Pres­i­dent Ruben Diaz

Jr., said the pa­rade needs to take a po­lit­i­cal tone. He and the group he is march­ing with plan to be in black T-shirts that re­flect the Har­vard study’s es­ti­mate of the dead.

“It would be a missed op­por­tu­nity this Sun­day

... if we don’t show an act of sol­i­dar­ity, an act of protest, an act of de­fi­ance to let the world know we still have a pres­i­dent and Congress that still has not done right by 3.5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans,” he said.

An­dres Kudacki / As­so­ci­ated Press

Na­tional Puerto Ri­can Day Pa­rade or­ga­niz­ers and par­tic­i­pants say the Sun­day event, along Fifth Av­enue in New York City, needs to take a po­lit­i­cal tone and, in an act of sol­i­dar­ity, protest the lack of fi­nan­cial and hu­man­i­tar­ian aid from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Congress.

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