Republicans control all three branches of government. Ergo, whatever that government does can be attributed to Republicans. When it comes to Puerto Rico, the harshness of the federal government’s response to the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria continues to punish the residents of the island for the political sin of not being white people of European descent. There can be no other explanation for how Puerto Rico has fared under the administration of #FakePresident Trump other than the virulent strain of racism he glorifies.
The proof is in the pudding. The graphic above charts the amount of time needed to restore power to Florida after Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and Hurricane Irma in 2017 compared to the unforgivable delay in restoring power to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
The situation in Puerto Rico has descended into lunacy. According to a report by The Intercept, members of UTIER, the utility workers union in Puerto Rico, have accused the Army Corps of Engineers of hoarding materials needed to complete the restoration of the utility grid at its warehouse in Ponce in the southern part of the island. Most of Puerto Rico’s generating stations — which are primarily powered by diesel fuel — are located near Ponce.
“That is not normal to have such quantities of materials in the crisis that we are having in Puerto Rico. For example, I have never seen such quantity of cross arms in my life,” says Fredyson Martinez, UTIER’s vice president. “The amount of [containers of wires] is also too much knowing what is needed. And all that just sitting there while the workers make miracles with the few things they get each day. It’s sad.”
Apparently in retaliation for criticism from UTIER and PERPA, the island’s utility company, the Army Corps of Engineers raided a PERPA warehouse on January 6 amid allegations that PERPA itself was hoarding materials. The issue seems to come down to whether the supplies needed to rebuild Puerto Rico’s broken utility grid should be kept at USCOE’s two central warehouses (a third is about to be added) or at PERPA’s 7 regional facilities. Roads and bridges are still waiting to be repaired after the hurricane and moving workers and supplies around the island to where they are needed most is challenging.
Adding fuel to the fire is a realization among Puerto Ricans that the latest tax bill foisted off on the public by Republicans amounts to a soap suds enema for Puerto Rico. Among other things, that piece of highly partisan legislation now classifies items manufactured on the island as made in a foreign country, a change that could cost Puerto Rico up to 200,000 jobs.
In New York City, the Puerto Rican community is complaining bitterly about how the US government manages — mismanages may be a better word — Puerto Rico. After the island defaulted on its public debt in July 2016, Congress passed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability act, often known as PROMESA. That legislation created an unelected management board designed to find ways to make sure the island met its financial obligations. The first thing the board did was slash funding for health care, pensions, and education.
Coming together under the hashtag #OurPowerPRnyc, people of Puerto Rican heritage are blasting PROMESA for being little more than a form of colonial rule. They believe their treatment is similar to how the US dealt with the so-called banana republics in Central America for decades. Many in the Puerto Rican diaspora are getting the distinct impression that the US government is treating the island as one of the “shithole countries” Donald Trump referred to so eloquently earlier this month.
In a press release on January 19, #OurPowerPRnyc listed 6 ways they believe PROMESA has damaged the island and its people.
- Trying to implement a minimum wage of $4.25 for everyone 25 years old and younger is not rebuilding Puerto Rico.
- Closing 184 schools is not rebuilding Puerto Rico.
- Voting unanimously to order Puerto Rico to implement 10% cutbacks in its public pension system, lay off tens of thousands of workers, and slash bonuses is not rebuilding Puerto Rico.
- Cuts including $1 billion in health care services, $300 million from the public university budget, and $350 million in municipal aid is not rebuilding Puerto Rico.
- Getting rid of environmental protections is not rebuilding Puerto Rico.
- Privatization and selling our land is not rebuilding Puerto Rico.
Republicans may have underestimated the political muscle of the 200,000 people who moved to the US mainland after the Hurricane Maria disaster. Many of them have settled in Florida where they have registered to vote (they are US citizens, after all, a fact that seems to have escaped #FakePresident Trump). The power outage on their island could lead to political power surge for a large bloc of voters angry at the way they have been treated by Republicans. They could alter the political landscape in Florida later this year, assuming governor Rick Scott can’t figure out a way to prevent them from voting.
Oppression is a curious thing. Just as there is an equal and opposite reaction for every action in the physical world, the same applies in the world of politics. That is a lesson the Republicans refuse to learn but will ignore at their peril.