Puerto Rico—EMERGENCY!
People Still in Dire Need, Trump Regime’s Response Still Deliberately Racist, Pitiful, and Deadly

October 9, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


It’s been nearly three weeks since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and people there are still facing a dire, life-and-death emergency thanks to the history of U.S. imperialist plunder of the island, and now because of the deliberately racist, pitiful, and deadly lack of aid from the Trump/Pence regime. (See "Trump’s Response to Hurricane Maria: Deadly, Racist Contempt for the Lives and Dignity of the Puerto Rican People")

Life-and-Death Medical Crisis

More than 90 percent of Puerto Rico remains without electricity, and half the population still does not have drinking water, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) statistics posted on October 4. The official death toll has already risen from 16 to 34, and the lack of power and water is putting tens of thousands at risk, including from contaminated water, lack of air conditioning, and refrigeration and more. It also means that hospitals and the health system remain crippled, and that people are without medicines and medical supplies.

Medical doctor and New Yorker contributor Dr. Sanjay Gupta writes, “For want of insulin, blood pressure medications and antibiotics, things widely available at any neighborhood pharmacy in the US mainland, people in Puerto Rico will die—are dying—preventable deaths....There may be 10s of thousands of hardy people who survived the hurricane and are now struggling to stay alive in its aftermath. They are teetering on the edge, with hardly any reserve.... When you hear the death toll has increased from the current official number of 16, know that most every additional death need not have happened. They were preventable.”

Making matters even more dire, Puerto Rico is facing a Medicaid funding crisis. Half the island’s 3.5 million people depend on Medicaid for their heath coverage, but now, according to The Hill, Puerto Rico is running out of funds to maintain the program and some 900,000 people could be forced off Medicaid in a matter of months if Congress doesn’t allocate the funds to ensure that does not happen.

As Puerto Ricans Suffer and Die, Trump Plays With Paper Towels

On Tuesday, October 3, Trump visited Puerto Rico. He made vague promises to help Puerto Rico. Then in a sick, racist joke, mocking the level of aid being delivered to Puerto Rico and the suffering of the Puerto Rican people, he "distributed"—that is, he tossed, like he was shooting baskets—paper towels to a small crowd of onlookers in one of  the wealthiest neighborhoods in San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital. His press secretary claimed people were having “fun.” This as hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans were scrambling to stay alive. What would the public response have been if he’d pulled this stunt in Miami after Hurricane Irma, or Houston after Hurricane Harvey?

Later he made a deliberately empty promise to wipe out the island’s $73 billion debt, which was quickly reversed by his budget director Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney “clarified” that Trump’s words shouldn’t be taken literally, that “Those bonds are being dealt with, were being dealt with before the storm, will be dealt with after the storm through the PROMESA process.” (The PROMESA process is basically a savage austerity program that’s been imposed on Puerto Rico which helped lead to the severe weakening of its infrastructure and the deeper impoverishment of its people.) In other words, the imperialists have no intention of rebuilding Puerto Rico much less meeting the basic needs of people there; instead they’re going to continue to bleed the island dry.

Oxfam: “We are outraged at the slow and inadequate response”

Despite Trump’s deliberate lies about the “great job” he’s doing and his hollow promises of aid, and the claim by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) that “progress is being made,” life remains a hellish struggle for the people. Reports coming out of the island describe FEMA officials filling out forms and taking surveys, but little aid getting outside the main cities to where it’s needed most. One FEMA official claimed that a particular road was impassible, only to have a news organization immediately drive it and report it was clear. And fleets of helicopters—of which the U.S. has many thousands—to ferry urgently needed supplies outside the main cities of this mountainous island were nowhere to be found.

San Juan’s mayor tweeted, “Power collapses in San Juan hospital with 4 patients now being transferred out. Have requested support from FEMA. NOTHING!” and “Increasingly painful to understand the american people want to help and US Gov does not want to help. WE NEED WATER!”

Asked about the mayor’s cries for help, the head of FEMA spat out racist disdain: “we filtered out the mayor a long time ago,” and “we don’t have time for ‘political noise.’” Exactly. FEMA isn’t there to actually meet the needs of the Puerto Rican people and doesn’t have “time” for their calls for life-saving aid. (On Thursday, FEMA removed from its website the statistics of how many people are without power and water; after being publicly questioned about the move, they put the statistics back up.)

The U.S. response to the crisis in Puerto Rico has been so lax—read murderous—that the international relief organization Oxfam felt compelled to issue a rare statement on October 2 condemning it:

Oxfam has monitored the response in Puerto Rico closely, and we are outraged at the slow and inadequate response the US Government has mounted in Puerto Rico. Clean water, food, fuel, electricity, and health care are in desperately short supply and quickly dwindling, and we’re hearing excuses and criticism from the administration instead of a cohesive and compassionate response. The US has more than enough resources to mobilize an emergency response but has failed to do so in a swift and robust manner.

Making Puerto Rico Uninhabitable

Flights are finally arriving and departing San Juan, but the scenes are heart-rending—and infuriating. Thousands, often young people sent away by their parents, are leaving the island because they can no longer live normally, and it could jeopardize their health. Others are arriving. They are often relatives who have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars buying basic supplies and then flying to Puerto Rico to deliver them to loved ones themselves. This speaks volumes about how criminally inadequate the Trump/Pence “relief” effort has been.

All this raises the specter of a massive depopulation of the island. After over a century of U.S. imperialist plunder of the island, this would constitute yet another great outrage and crime against humanity.

As we concluded in our coverage last week, “These policies truly are genocidal, and have to be condemned and opposed. This regime has to be driven from power. And this imperialist system has to be overturned, here and all over the world, at the soonest possible time.”


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