President Trump’s Mistreatment of Puerto Rico – Unprecedented, unethical and inhumane

James Cantu

October 4th, 2017

Nearly one week after hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, residents are still trying to get the basics of food, water, gas, and money from banks. Much of the damage done was to electrical wires, fallen trees, and flattened vegetation, in addition to wooden home roofs torn off. (Photo and caption provided by Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

President Trump’s handling, or lack thereof, of the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico is unprecedented, deplorable, and exhibits his apparent lack of empathy for the suffering of others.

Puerto Rico experienced a category 4 storm, Maria, on September 20, leaving many homes destroyed, citizens displaced, and roughly 3.4 million people without a reliable source of power.

On Friday, September 29, Carmen Yulin Cruz, mayor of San Juan, gave an emotional plea for help during a news conference.

“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency, and the bureaucracy,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said, “This is what we got last night. Four pallets of water, three pallets of meals, and 12 pallets of infant food — which, I gave them to the people of Comerio, where people are drinking off a creek. So, I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell.”

President Trump’s response? Criticizing San Juan’s mayor for poor leadership in a series of tweets.

“Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help,” President Trump tweeted, “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 federal workers now on island doing a fantastic job.”

So what did President Trump do for Puerto Rico besides making light of the plight of millions?

President Trump sent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)administrators to survey the damage and blamed Puerto Rico’s poverty and debt crisis for the state of disrepair the island is in, “Texas & Florida are doing great, but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,” President Trump tweeted.

President Trump, when confronted by criticism due to the administration’s lack of humanitarian aid, blamed the distance between the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

“This isn’t like Florida where we can go right up the spine or like Texas where we go right down the middle and we distribute,” President Trump said, “This is a thing called the Atlantic Ocean, this is tough stuff.”

In a moment of compassion, forced or not, President Trump stated that the federal government will foot 100 percent of the FEMA bill. Prior to this, Puerto Rico had to foot 50 percent of the bill.

It should be noted that 43 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents live in poverty, and without that payment change, the island would be even more hampered down by debt.

Whether President Trump’s  decision was a shining act of compassion or common decency is up for interpretation.

On Thursday, President Trump temporarily lifts the Jones Act, allowing foreign and local aid to dock in Puerto Rico.

Meaning, for days the island was not allowed to receive and disperse foreign aid until the President deemed fit.

So far, Puerto Rico has received over 4.4 million meal kits and 6.5 million liters of water.

The problem? FEMA has, according to Cruz, “virtually collapsed.”

The supplies are piling up on the ports with no reliable way to disperse the goods to the people due to road conditions hampered by debris.

With no electricity, clean food or water sources, and unsafe living conditions, the people of Puerto Rico are at the mercy of President Trump.

President Trump’s reaction to pass the blame onto Cruz, lifting the Jones Act at a late date, and apparent disregard for the lives of those suffering is an abhorrent display of apathy. So much so, that the five former living presidents decided to form a coalition to fundraise for the humanitarian efforts in Puerto Rico.

Their efforts are a part of “One America Appeal Campaign” whose funds will go towards disaster relief for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Initially, the campaign was for those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma, but expanded to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

For those who want to get involved, click the hyperlink above and donate online today.

James Cantu

Opinions Editor

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