In less than two weeks, Americans nation-wide will go to the polls to elect a new Congress, as well as the governors of several key states. For the first time in our lifetime, the American citizens of the United States Territory of Puerto Rico will have the opportunity to directly influence the results of this important election.
Unfortunately, that power rests with the Puerto Ricans that live in the States, not on our Island. More on this latter.
In the always important state of Florida, the growing number of Puerto Ricans living there could decide the winner between current governor Rick Scott (R) and one time Republican, Charlie Crist (D). Polls shows the race too close to call, and this is where the Puerto Rican community could make its voice hear.
The famous I-4 corridor, as it's called, which runs through a swing-vote region, is undergoing significant demographic change.
Since early 2013 Puerto Ricans have been migrating by the thousands to the area, a forced migration due to poor economic conditions on the Island that have transformed the region.
Orange County alone is home to more than 150,000 Puerto Ricans. Overall, Puerto Ricans now number nearly 1 million statewide and represent 28 percent of Hispanic registered voters — closing in on a Cuban population of 1.3 million that comprises 32 percent of Hispanic voters.
This is an enormous political power. It’s time to flex it.
Puerto Ricans need to cast their votes in masses this November. We need to make a statement now, and it all starts in Florida.
Because the race for governor is very close, we have the political muscle to determine the outcome.
The people of the Island living in the Sunshine State should demand that both candidates put forward a specific set of policies, not the customary promises that cater to their needs and go nowhere.
They also could and should move forward an ambitious agenda designed to end the political limbo in which Puerto Rico has been submerged since 1898.
Both Scott and Crist must make a pledge to the Puerto Rican community in Florida that, once elected, they will push forward, with all their political capital, an end to more than a century of colonial rule on the Island.
To achieve this objective, the winner must pledge to use his new and considerable political power in Washington, D.C. in launching a major effort towards gaining the approval in Congress of an admission bill for Puerto Rico.
In 2012 Puerto Ricans on the Island voted overwhelming to join the Union as its 51st state. In a landslide vote, 61 percent of the people that participated in the status referendum decided to end more than a century of political uncertainty by becoming a full member of our nation.
The winner of the Florida governor's race will have huge clout heading into the 2016 presidential election.
No Republican can take the White House without the state’s crucial 29 electoral votes. On the other side, a Democratic third term in the presidency depends heavily on retaining this important voting block; thus there’s a pressing need on both sides to cater to the ever growing Puerto Rican community.
I urge the people of Puerto Rico living in Florida to use this singular and historic opportunity to push to the top of the agenda the issue of inequality felt by the American citizens residing on the Island.
To engage their candidates with the objective of having them make ironclad pledges in favor of the granting Puerto Rico statehood, as was decided by the will of the voters in 2012.
Time to flex our political muscle in order to achieve equality.
Aponte-Hernández was Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives from 2005 to 2009.