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Democrats put up Puerto Rico paper towel billboard for Mike Pence visit

A reminder of Puerto Rican frustration over federal response to Hurricane Maria

“Never Forget” is the message the Florida Democratic Party wants to impart to Central Florida Puerto Ricans in advance of Vice President Mike Pence‘s rally Thursday evening in Kissimmee.

By “Never Forget,” the Democrats are referring to the federal response and President Donald Trump‘s statements and actions following the devastation of the island by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The widespread belief that the federal response was slow and inadequate was symbolized by Trump’s Oct. 3, 2017, photo-op choice of tossing rolls of paper towels into a crowd desperate for food, water, shelter, medical care, electricity, and roads.

The Florida Democratic Party has put up a billboard on one of the main routes from Orlando into Kissimmee, showing Trump making the paper towel toss with the words “PROHIBIDO OLVIDAR…” — translated to “never forget” in English — printed at the top. The billboard goes up Monday and will be up through Sunday. It is located on the Florida Turnpike Southbound, before the Orange Blossom Trail exit.

Pence is scheduled to deliver remarks to a 6 p.m. Latinos for Trump event at the Nación de Fe church in Kissimmee.

In addition to expressing widespread criticism for the Hurricane Maria response, Puerto Ricans now await a response to the series of earthquakes that have caused damage in the past two weeks.

Osceola County has one of the largest Puerto Rican populations in Florida and experienced a 22 percent increase in its Puerto Rican population in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Fewer than 17 percent of Puerto Ricans in the Sunshine State support Trump, according to a Florida International University Poll in 2018.“When the Americans in Puerto Rico needed President Trump the most, he threw paper towels at them instead of releasing federal emergency funds,” FDP Executive Director, Juan Peñalosa said in a news release issued by the party. “Donald Trump is more interested in tweeting insults at his enemies than tackling spiraling healthcare costs, protecting American jobs, and the growing climate crisis. The billboards are a part of our effort to make sure that Trump’s lies, broken promises and ineffective management are exposed. We deserve a President that is focused on improving our lives — Trump is not that President.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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