The republican President Donald Trump and his apologists are not fessing up to reality. The US government has somehow fallen behind in its obligations to adequately assist our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico which was decimated by Hurricane Maria when it landed around September 20, 2017.
A week later, the president looked like he was finally taking Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis seriously by sending the US military to assist it and by waiving the Jones Act which allows foreign ships to deliver aid as well as US vessels.
Upon doing some research, I learned from an AP report that only about 5000 military soldiers were being sent when about 50,000 are needed according to a military expert, Phillip Carter, A Senior Fellow and Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security. Then I found out that the president was waiving the Jones Act for only 10 days.
The president’s need to look good is not what is needed here. What Puerto Rico requires is a president who rolls up his sleeves to figure out how to get the job done.
Here’s the rest of the story….
On September 30, 2017, Jenny Marder of the PBS penned the following report, “After first tour of Puerto Rico, top general calls damage ‘the worst he’s ever seen.’
“Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the Department of Defense’s primary military liaison with FEMA, toured the damage in Puerto Rico for the first time Saturday during a helicopter ride from San Juan to Ceiba. After landing at a hangar in Ceiba with no power, internet or cellular service, Buchanan spoke with the PBS NewsHour’s Monica Villamizar.”
“Sometimes we don’t know what’s going to happen until the storm actually hits, and this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” Buchanan said.
“The trip occurred hours after President Donald Trump criticized San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz for “poor leadership” after she spoke of devastation and “horror” on the island in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and pleaded for help and support from the government. “We are dying here,” she said during a news conference Friday. (9/30/17)”
“Buchanan said the worst problems are on the interior of the island. “And it’s because of roads. The roads are not clear on the outside of the island, and we’re slowly working our way in. But we obviously need to get all the roads cleared so we can get supplies to people who desperately need them.”
On October 1, 2017, Mary Anastasia O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal penned the following report, “FEMA’s Foul-Up in Puerto Rico.” (“The emergency plan depended on generators but diesel was not delivered.”)
“Hurricane Katrina taught the Federal Emergency Management Agency some harsh lessons in 2005. FEMA used what it learned to prepare and respond better when Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. mainland earlier this year. Now Maria has taken the bureaucrats back to school in Puerto Rico, and they’re not getting passing grades.”
Ahead of the Category 4 storm that hit with 155 mile-an-hour winds on Sept. 20, the FEMA team in Puerto Rico said it was ready. But a week later much of the island was still in dire need of food, water and fuel—the basics of humanitarian relief.
“The most immediate needs centered on the sick and elderly. About 97% of the island lost electricity in the storm. Diesel-run generators were supposed to fill the void in hospitals and dialysis centers and provide refrigeration for medicines like insulin. But the diesel fuel did not arrive, and by midweek family members began to panic. Tearful Puerto Ricans begged for help.
“FEMA will no doubt learn again from Maria. But so too should the rest of us, about the folly of relying on government to deal with a disaster even as predictable as the aftermath of a hurricane.”
“Mr. Trump’s big mistake has been his handling of the Jones Act, which mandates that shipping from the mainland to the island use only American-built-and-crewed vessels. First he said he would not suspend it as he did for Texas after Harvey and Florida after Irma. “A lot of people that work in the shipping industry . . . don’t want [it] lifted,” he said.”
“Under pressure, he finally said he would suspend the Jones Act for Puerto Rico—but only for 10 days, a meaningless gesture.”
“For more than a week the island’s ports have been piled high with containers waiting to be hitched up to cabs and their contents delivered to supermarkets, restaurants, home-building supply stores and medical centers. In other words, much of the merchandise needed in an island-wide triage is already on Puerto Rican docks.”
“What the island does not yet have but will have to import in the months and years ahead are billions of dollars in materials for rebuilding homes, businesses and infrastructure. This will be heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, who, along with Puerto Ricans, have a right to demand globally competitive shipping rates.”
“If the president and Congress are serious about their concern for the territory, they will stand up to the shipping lobby and end once and for all what has been an injustice to Puerto Rico for nearly 100 years.”
“Meanwhile, the Boricua are slowly recovering from what can only be described as a giant FEMA fubar. True, an island tyrannized by labor unions some 1,200 miles from Florida with an annual per capita income of $29,000—and a bankrupt state-owned electricity monopoly—presents special challenges.”
“Yet this was common knowledge before Maria landed. So too was the high probability that cellphone service would be extremely limited in the wake of the storm. Nevertheless FEMA was caught off guard.The emergency plan centered on the use of diesel generators to replace lost electricity for hospitals and to pump drinking water. But a week after the storm 44% of the island was still without agua potable and public-health services were deteriorating.”
“Amid the chaos, Alejandro de la Campa, the local head of FEMA, tried to explain away the agency’s responsibility. “We have no control over diesel in Puerto Rico,” he said. “We have contracts with certain companies that are giving us service.”
“Right. And the fire department has no control over water.”
“The troubles went beyond diesel and turned into a supply-chain nightmare in which chaos reigned. Gasoline lines stretched miles. Merchandise at the port couldn’t be delivered due to driver shortages and the collapse of the communications infrastructure.”
“Emergency management is all about anticipating disruptions and establishing contingencies. The failure of the local FEMA office to do so is organizational negligence, not a mainland plot against our Spanish-speaking brethren.”
According to a 10/1/17 NY Times article, “Puerto Rico Is Getting a Surge of Aid, Governor Says” by Richard Fausset, “Gov. Ricardo Rosselló told reporters that over the next 2 days, more than half a million barrels of diesel fuel and nearly a million barrels of gasoline would reach Puerto Rico. The fuel is badly needed to power emergency generators and to distribute food and other supplies across the island.”
“Mr. Rosselló said that the Defense Department had increased its footprint on Puerto Rico to 6,400 people, from roughly 4,600 two days earlier, with more coming, and that other federal agencies were also sending more staff to aid in the island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria, which smashed through the island on Sept. 20.”