Aid for Puerto Rico Dismal So Far

The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), September 28, 2017 | Go to article overview

Aid for Puerto Rico Dismal So Far


Suppose that the entire San Diego metropolitan area had lost electrical power, and it wouldn't be restored for months.

Or, suppose that most of the ports, roads and cellular towers in the Seattle metropolitan area had been destroyed, and a major dam had failed.

Or, that the combined populations of New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont had seen much of their forests and agricultural land wiped out.

Or, that the residents of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming - combined - had lost access to food and clean water, leaving them vulnerable to cholera. And imagine that overflowing hospitals, without power, had no capacity to deal with an outbreak.

Now, imagine that in response to any of these scenarios, the president of the United States variously ignored the plight of the affected Americans (in all of the above cases about 3.4 million people, give or take), blamed them for their own troubles and provided inadequate help. This is precisely what is happening right now to the 3.4 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico, an island territory more populous than about 20 states. Hurricane Maria essentially wiped out these Americans' ports, roads, electricity, communications, water supply and crops and many homes. Yet, a week after the storm, the response from the American mainland has been paltry.

There is no rush, as there was after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, to approve the emergency funds that Puerto Rico will surely need. There has been no massive movement of military personnel and equipment to Puerto Rico: no aircraft carrier (one was sent to the Florida Keys in response to Hurricane Irma), no hospital ship (finally on Tuesday afternoon the Navy said it was sending one).

President Trump, so visible when Harvey and Irma hit, all but ignored the devastation that Maria brought to Puerto Rico, devoting more attention to respect for the flag at NFL games. When he did turn his focus to Puerto Rico on Monday, it was to say that the island "was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt" and that its "old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars ... owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with."

Two Trump Cabinet members, Energy Secretary Rick Perry (who traveled with Trump to Texas and Florida after hurricanes there) and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, made a joint public appearance Monday but didn't even mention Puerto Rico. …

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