Trump Is a Vile Disgrace As a Humanitarian Crisis Emerges in Puerto Rico

Last Thursday, I noted that 70 percent of the people in Puerto Rico lacked reliable access to drinkable water after the devastation caused by back-to-back hurricanes. At the time, the scope of the damage and attendant crisis was only beginning to be understood, as information infrastructure had been compromised and many parts of the island had become inaccessible due to debris.

Those problems persist, making comprehensive assessments yet impossible, but the emergent picture is of an emergent large-scale humanitarian crisis.

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Nicole Chavez at CNN reports: "Authorities flew over the island Saturday, and were stunned by what they saw. No cellphones, water, or power. Roads completely washed away and others blocked by debris, isolating residents. 'It was devastating to see all that kind of debris in all areas, in all towns of the island,' Jenniffer González, the island's non-voting representative in Congress, told CNN." Governor Ricardo Rosselló "met with more than 50 mayors and representatives from across Puerto Rico on Saturday," some of whom "described the conditions in their communities as 'apocalyptic.'"

One of those mayors, Jose Sanchez Gonzalez, from the north coastal town of Manati, told Rosselló that his town needs "basic supplies such as water, ice, and gas immediately. He says hysteria is starting to spread and the hospital is at capacity and people are going to start dying."

In a gut-wrenching report in the New York Times, Puerto Rican farmers survey the vast destruction of crops, and farmer José A. Rivera says, "There will be no food in Puerto Rico. There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won't be any for a year or longer." Even in the precious few places where crops survived, unpassable roads, or roads completely washed away altogether, mean even food that can be harvested may never make it to hungry people.

Puerto Rico, which already imported about 85 percent of its food, will now have to rely even more heavily on imports. Rivera noted, however, "that other islands that export food to Puerto Rico, such as the Dominican Republic, Dominica, and St. Martin, were also hit, and that the food supply could be even more precarious if the island's other suppliers were also affected."

People are scrambling to find clean water, and the coastal city of Arecibo' emergency management director David Latorre said: "It was an odyssey to find food. We had to break down doors to get it. The food system collapsed."

Governor Rosselló said yesterday that the island is on the verge of a "humanitarian crisis," and "called on Congress to prevent a deepening disaster."
Stressing that Puerto Rico, a United States commonwealth, deserved the same treatment as hurricane-ravaged states, the governor urged Republican leaders and the federal government to move swiftly to send more money, supplies, and relief workers. It was a plea echoed by Puerto Rico's allies in Congress, who are pushing for quick movement on a new relief bill and a loosening of financial debt obligations for the island, which is still reeling from a corrosive economic crisis.

"Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States, can turn into a humanitarian crisis," Governor Rosselló said. "To avoid that, recognize that we Puerto Ricans are American citizens; when we speak of a catastrophe, everyone must be treated equally."

Although FEMA aid has been dispatched to Puerto Rico, much more significant help — and in greater numbers — is required to get water, food, supplies, and rescue to people currently isolated in remote locations left inaccessible by the storm.

Yesterday, it was reported the White House planned to request funding from Congress in October, which is clearly not soon enough. The White House does not seem to understand, or care, about the urgency of the need in Puerto Rico.

[Image in tweet shows a CNN chyron reading: "Millions of desperate Americans beg Trump & U.S. for help."]

Donald Trump has instead been preoccupied with publicly ranting and tweeting about NFL players protesting white supremacy (which many people have wrongly called a "distraction," when in fact his defense of white supremacy is inextricably tied to his indifference toward the residents of Puerto Rico). When Trump finally did tweet something about Puerto Rico yesterday, it was typically reprehensible.

[Image is screenshot of three tweets, across which Trump has said: "Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble. It's [sic] 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. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well. #FEMA"]

So far this morning, Trump has tweeted about the NFL four times, and has tweeted only once about Puerto Rico, and that was to thank the mayor of San Juan "for your kind words on FEMA etc."

Trump can't even be arsed to pretend that he gives a fuck about the people of Puerto Rico, millions of whom are increasingly desperate and scared. Even people for whom things are okay now are understandably worried about what will happen if the United States president continues to be so cavalier toward their plight, and if the Republican Congressional majority doesn't step up with the necessary urgency.

Contact your Senators and rep today and ask them to prioritize sufficient and comprehensive relief for Puerto Rico. Remind them that Puerto Ricans are United States citizens. Urge them to take immediate action.

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