Crisis in Puerto Rico

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Crisis in Puerto Rico

Julianna Aguja, News Editor

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Over the past few weeks, we have all seen the devastating effects of hurricanes in the United States. After Harvey and Irma, Americans all over the country know how dangerous and impactful these storms can be. Towns have been wiped off the map, dozens have been killed and millions of dollars have gone into aiding the long rebuilding process that every place affected by natural disaster must go through.

Most recently, the catastrophic consequences of hurricanes have been seen in Puerto Rico, with Hurricane Maria only touching down on the island three weeks ago. Maria is the tenth most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, which is a fitting title for the hurricane that absolutely destroyed Puerto Rico. Every region of the island nation was affected, with the most damage evident in Cataño, a municipality just 20 minutes away from Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan.

Residents have reported that the Maria’s effects on the island have been nothing but apocalyptic. Buildings have crumbled to the ground, electricity is expected to be shut off for as long as 6 months, and many people are struggling to find basic necessities like food and water, as large shipments of the basics are stranded at San Juan’s port and are unable to be shipped out due to the massive destruction across the island. The widespread need for supplies has forced supermarkets and gas stations to impose a rationing system until items can be distributed properly.

As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico is home to over 3 million Americans. Every person born in Puerto Rico is a full citizen of the United States and enjoys all the same rights as we do, including residency within any state. All Puerto Ricans are just as American as anyone on the mainland, which has led many to wonder why President Trump has failed to push for more money to be put into the rebuilding of the devastated island.

The issue of supplies being stuck in shipping containers in San Juan could be fixed if the Washington made the decision to lift the Jones Act, an 100-year old law that requires shipments between U.S. ports to be put on ships that are built and operated by Americans. These ships are far more expensive to construct and manage than other vessels operated by foreign countries. The Jones Act has caused vital, life-saving supplies like clean water and medicine to be stuck at the docks where they are not able to help the people of Puerto Rico.

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosellό, has made it clear that Puerto Ricans are in desperate need of assistance. It has been weeks since Hurricane Maria struck the island, and the United States has not stepped up and offered assistance to the struggling nation. In a series of tweets sent out by President Trump, Trump and the Trump Administration implied that the reason why Puerto Rico is struggling to help out its citizens is due to laziness on Puerto Rican officials’ behalves. Many of Trump’s tweets were aimed at Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, who has been vocal in her frustration with the Trump Administration’s handling of the disaster in Puerto Rico. Trump claimed that Cruz and the people of Puerto Rico, “want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.” This allegation, which is absolutely wrong, has caused an outrage in the United States, as well as in Puerto Rico. When community leaders in Texas and Florida asked for help, Trump gave them the assistance they needed, without making any rude or insensitive comments. He did not tell the thousands of Texans and Floridians that they wanted “everything to be done for them” – Trump reassured his citizens that they would get all the help that they needed. Puerto Ricans are in fact Americans too, a certainty that has caused many to wonder why Trump isn’t treating his citizens in Puerto Rico the same way he is treating his citizens on the mainland.

The fact of the matter is that Puerto Rico is in need of major assistance. Spokespeople for the White House have said that Trump is planning to ask Congress for $13 billion to go towards aid in Puerto Rico. Trump has also promised to visit the ravaged island nation, however he has not set an official date. What our government decides to do to aid Puerto Rico is unknown to us, however we have the power to help the millions of our fellow Americans residing on the island. The First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Roselló, started an amazing charity called, “United for Puerto Rico” which is a local organization that is helping people all over the island rebuild their lives. Government officials are urging Americans to donate to United for Puerto Rico because the group has deep roots in Puerto Rican society, but also has the resources to help a larger group of people due to sponsorships by large corporations such as Banco Popular, Bacardi and Coca-Cola.

Hurricane Maria has devastated every single part of Puerto Rico. Every single resident of Puerto Rico has been affected by this terrible disaster. The response to this catastrophe from our President has been an eye-opener for countless Americans.