Op-Ed: Puerto Rico, #StandWithUkraine

Op-Ed by the Executive Director of the Oversight Board: Natalie Jaresko

This column was originally published in Spanish by El Nuevo Día on March 5, 2022

 The savage and unprovoked attack perpetrated by Russia on the peaceful and democratic country of Ukraine is continuing to escalate in a manner that is totally unacceptable. This is no longer just a war between two countries. Last Thursday, Russia bombed a nuclear reactor, the largest in Europe, threatening nuclear contamination of the hemisphere. This horrible event has become an existential danger to the whole humankind, to the whole world. 

With his brutal actions, Vladimir Putin has proven to be the enemy of freedom and the enemy of the system of rule of law that enables us to live in peace, to build our businesses, and to support one another with respect. The Russian war against Ukraine’s conflict is geographically distant from Puerto Rico, but the consequences of Putin’s slaughtering of the people of Ukraine will have ripple effects to all people and societies on Earth. 

 That’s why today, Ukrainian soldiers, civilian defense organizations throughout the country, brave men and women, are holding back the Kremlin’s army, standing steadfastly for European values, and protecting all of Europe, and all of the democratic world. And we all must reaffirm our commitment to peace and freedom, not chaos, not conflict, not war. 

As the global economic outlook darkens with the Russian’s troops advancing to Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, international solidarity is key. Ukraine is the second largest grain exporter in the world. Think of what will happen to global food prices. Ukraine produces 70% of neon gases, needed for the semiconductor industry and our everyday technology. Ukraine is the 11th largest steel exporter. What will the reconstruction of Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria cost as a result of decreased supply? Today, more than ever, Puerto Rico must insert itself in this international arena. Otherwise, we will collectively suffer the economic and social impact of this conflict. 

We can divest of Russian assets, and we can boycott Russian goods and services, in essence becoming the 21st-century equivalent of the late-20th-century anti-apartheid movement, in which business, across many sectors and societies banded together to counter the systemic and systematic racism of the white nationalist South African regime. The fastest way to end 

the war is to stop trading with Russia, divest Russian assets and refuse to finance Putin’s regime and his murder of innocent civilians hour after hour. 

Last week, Governor Pedro Pierluisi issued Executive Order 2022-018 to prohibit agencies in Puerto Rico from contracting, investing, and purchasing from Russian entities, and the House of Representatives submitted a Concurrent Resolution to express its opposition to the aggressive invasion perpetrated by Putin. This is a good example of what governments and businesspeople around the world can do to raise awareness, help degrade Russia’s economy, and dissuade Putin from continuing with this devastating attack. 

We have collectively taken freedom, peace, and democracy for granted for way too long both as citizens and as businesspeople. Putin’s war against Ukraine has brought this into a stark and alarming view. Businesses have a critical role to play if they believe in the virtues of environmental, social and governance factors (ESG) like rule of law, good governance, and human rights. It’s time to put all that talk into action. 

But also, as individuals, Puerto Ricans can do a lot to #StandWithUkraine. 

For example, you can write your representative in Congress, and you can call the White House and ask them to send better, more sophisticated additional weapons for these brave people to defend themselves and impose more severe sanctions for the Russian financial sector, banks, payment systems and gas sales. 

Today I lend my voice to the future of a peaceful and free Ukraine. I beg every Puerto Rican, every friend, every stranger, every American to Stand with Ukraine, and, for those who believe, to pray for the people of Ukraine. 

Puerto Rico has lived through horrible natural disasters and Puerto Ricans have shown resiliency in the face of adversity. Puerto Rico has a lot to contribute to these difficult times. Let’s use our media to raise our voices for peace, for the TOTAL cessation of the bombing. To remain silent today is to stand in solidarity with the enemy of peace. 

In the words of Winston Churchill, who, defiant in the madness of another tyrant, said, “If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free, and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands; but if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States and all that we have known and care for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister.” 

I hope that peace and freedom will prevail. 

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