Relief not arriving fast enough for Puerto Rico

Columnist Jana Duncan

Columnist Jana Duncan

After a massive hurricane ripped through the island of Puerto Rico, leaving the death count at 34 and rising, Puerto Ricans are left without energy or clean water, and a president they can’t rely on for help or compassion.

The island was hit dead on by Hurricane Maria, leaving reporters from Vox calling the aftermath “apocalyptic.”

According to Vox, all the island’s 1.57 million residents are still without power. Fuel used to run generators are in low supply, which impacts hospitals that need generators to run life-saving equipment. Only 45 percent of people have access to clean, portable water, and 88.8 percent of cell tower sites are out of service, leaving many stranded without a way of communicating.  According to the New York Times, the storm decimated 80 percent of the crop value. These appalling numbers, along with the images of human beings going through real tragedy, shows a huge cry for help.

Unfortunately, the road to relief has been long, and the president has not reacted with the swiftness many were hoping for.  A day after the storm struck, Vox said Trump approved a disaster declaration. Yet, instead of rushing to Puerto Rico’s aid, the president let his war on kneeling in professional sports dominate the news cycle. 

According to the Office of the Press Secretary, Trump authorized an increase in the level of federal funding for Puerto Rico relief. President Trump has sent 4,500 troops and National Guard members to aid the citizens on the island, not including people from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

However, according to Vox, the time it has taken to get these measures in place has not been fast enough, and the amount of help and supplies still is not near the number that we should be providing.  For an island of roughly 3.4 million people, what Trump has provided is just a drop in the bucket of what Puerto Rico needs and what is effective. 

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz has been at the forefront of fighting for what her people need.  At a press conference Cruz said, “I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying... We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and bureaucracy.”  She even incited Trump to make sure someone, perhaps other than himself, would be willing to step up and save lives.

Trump said Democrats told the mayor to be nasty to him, that the mayor lacked leadership, and that “they want everything to be done for them.” Victimizing himself and pushing the blame on a scapegoat in a time of vulnerability seems about on par with what we might expect from our president.

From then on, Trump had only glowing remarks about the situation in Puerto Rico and about the way administration was handling it. On multiple occasions, he said, “We’re doing a great job” and claimed that others have given similar sentiments toward what is happening in Puerto Rico. Trump did not visit the disaster area until almost two weeks later, on Oct. 3.

Reporters cited Trump in Carolina, Puerto Rico saying things such as, “I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.” He later consoled victims of the hurricane in a ‘let them eat cake’ manner by saying, “We’re gonna help you out, have a good time.” 

If it seems like Trump was not treating the visit and people with the respect they deserve, then it would not be a surprise to see a video of our leader of the free world lobbing paper towels into a crowd of desperate people, as if it was a Trump rally and he was in charge of operating the t-shirt cannon. 

Though to Trump and his chief of homeland security, the federal response is a “good news story,” according to NBC News. Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said “Damn it, this is not a good news story.  This is a people are dying story.”

To donate to Puerto Rico relief, visit: http://unidosporpuertorico.com/ or donate directly to the victims in need.