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Puerto Rican Recovery

October 9, 2017

The utter devastation wreaked by hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico is proving to be much greater than that of its predecessors Harvey and Irma on the mainland United States. The effort being put forth to this point to speed recovery from the damage caused by Maria has thus far been slow developing and leaving much to be desired. Electricity was wiped out for the vast majority of the island. Food and drinkable water became scarce, while communications and fuel for transportation (including that required to distribute needed relief supplies) also became difficult to acquire.

Whereas help was sent almost as soon as the other two storms dissipated, and President Trump and other Administration officials visited the stricken areas swiftly as well, over a week passed from the arrival of Maria until the President made a visit there. The sense of urgency for dealing with victims in Texas, Florida and other areas affected by Harvey and Irma was not reflected in equal measure by the response to Maria in Puerto Rico.

When frustration at the lateness and effectiveness of the response was understandably expressed by the Mayor of San Juan, the largest city on the island, the President chose to take another of his famous golf weekends and rant on Twitter about how wonderfully the recovery effort was going. He blamed the mayor and the victims themselves of basically whining and refusing to make any efforts to recover on their own – expecting the Federal Government to do all the heavy lifting for them.

Granted, Puerto Rico’s location (separated from the mainland United States by miles of open ocean) makes the recovery operation both more costly and more time-consuming than that necessary for the victims of the other two storms. However, many have observed  President Trump’s past words and deeds and see other explanations for his lack of enthusiasm for this particular effort. This deals with who the actual victims of this natural disaster are and the actual political power they have to sway the President and his political base.

Puerto Rico is a US Territory, similar to the US Virgin Islands, Guam and some other small islands. Puerto Rican people are born and raised American  citizens. Like the residents of the District of Columbia, they have no elected voting representation in Congress. Unlike the residents of DC, however, they don’t even have electoral votes to be cast in Presidential elections. They are free to move to states and then have a voice equal to the rest of the American citizens of those states in voting for Senators and US Representatives, but not if they remain home in Puerto Rico. When I was growing up in Western New York, there was a sizable Puerto Rican community there. Several other states also have such communities. While growing up, I knew many Puerto Rican natives, but few Mexican immigrants or natives of other Latin American countries. Being largely Spanish speaking and Hispanic heritage, many members of Trump’s base incorrectly lump them in with those other groups when it comes to their rights of citizenship. They also get blamed, like members of those other groups, for stealing jobs from “legitimate Americans”.

Our current President’s oft-expressed disparaging attitudes towards Hispanic people may be part of his lack of motivation to effectively deal with the severe hardships visited on the residents of Puerto Rico by this natural disaster. Failure to prioritize the island’s needs certainly doesn’t hurt him with his base supporters. Nor will it directly affect his re-election chances, since Puerto Rico has no say in Presidential elections.

The population of Puerto Rico exceeds three million, giving the island more potential voters than several of our current fifty states. Vermont, another state I have lived a significant portion of my life in, has less than one million. If Puerto Ricans are truly American citizens, they deserve the same political representation as the rest of us. Making it a state would go a long way towards providing that. Had a similar storm devastated Hawaii, does anyone believe the response from the federal government would’ve approximated what Puerto Rico’s has been so far? It certainly wasn’t in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor – and Hawaii wasn’t even a state yet then.

Adequate recovery operations can restore Puerto Rico to the condition it was in prior to Maria. Infrastructure can even be improved from what it was before economically, environmentally and in a timely manner that improves the lives of the residents overall. Using the island and its people as political pawns to further an agenda that suits needs and desires of predatory corporations and intolerance towards ethnic minority communities is unacceptable in a forward looking humane society. We need leadership in Washington that actually leads rather than rules, and does so fairly and equitably towards all its citizens. Towards all people, actually, but eliminating more of the inequities and unfairness that have been accepted among even our own defined citizenry would be an immediate step in the right direction to begin with.

Further Suggested Readings:

Make Puerto Rico a state

Maria power outage puts old, vulnerable at risk in Puerto Rico

Factbox: Relief efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

Damning Report Shows That Trump’s Inadequate Puerto Rico Response Will Cost Lives

General Who Oversaw Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort Is Blasting Trump’s Puerto Rico Response

Puerto Rico’s drinking-water crisis isn’t going away anytime soon

Fight Against Gun Violence and Demand More Aid for Puerto Rico

Trump shows ‘basic lack of humanity’ in Puerto Rico

Oxfam slams US response in Puerto Rico as ‘slow, inadequate’

Could Donald Trump Have Been Any More Condescending to the People of Puerto Rico?

Trump Slammed for Slow Maria Response As Aid Piles Up on San Juan’s Docks

We’re Failing the U.S. Citizens of Puerto Rico 

As Wall Street Vultures Circle, Demands for Immediate Puerto Rico Debt Relief

Trump’s Frightening Puerto Rico Moment: "This Is An Island. Surrounded by Water. Big Water, Ocean Water."

For Il Trumpe, Mexican Is The New Puerto Rican

Why the Governor of Puerto Rico Praised Trump

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4 Comments
  1. Margie G. Martinez permalink

    There’s no doubt President Trump is prejudice especially against Hispanics and anyone with a Latino background.
    His attitude is not only racially biased but is hurtful and a danger to our well being. I think he is a failed President and will go down in history as the worst President of our United States of America.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You will need to Tweet every line of this article and you might get his attention. There is something mentally wrong with the person in charge of the US at this time. Having looked at the top 40 videos for today regarding Dumpy Donald have him all over CNN, FOX and MSNBC going on about hockey.

    He’s doing a daily soap opera until someone kicks the soap box from under him. If he had a hotel in Puerto Rico totally destroyed it might have changed his tune. The only thing that concerns me and most of the world is his childish behavior while he has the nuclear launch codes. Rock on Rick!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tweeting it to Trump would probably only get me blocked by him. I concur with your assessment, Dennis. He’s starting to get pushback from other Republicans. We’ll see what happens in next year’s midterms, if they can keep him from really going bonkers long enough to actually hold elections.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wrote an essay back in grade 9 entitled “We have gone a long way from any form of democracy where the citizen has no voice”. Sister X sent my to the office of the principal Sister XX and she called my parents! Thankfully Dad answered to phone and said “he’s right it was a waste of time for us to fight in WW II. Everything we gained is slowly being taken away”. There were some good comments about your article on Facebook. Donald didn’t respond to me on Twitter and that got me thinking if he is a robot developed by the military 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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