By State Representative, Leon D. Young
Let’s be clear: There is a humanitarian disaster currently unfolding in Puerto Rico that Donald Trump is ignoring. Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló of Puerto Rico has indicated that the island was on the brink of a “humanitarian crisis” nearly a week after Hurricane Maria knocked out its power and most of its water, and left residents waiting in excruciating lines for fuel. He called on Congress to prevent a deepening disaster.
The governor went on to stress that Puerto Rico, a United States commonwealth, deserved the same treatment as hurricaneravaged states; and 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.
With 60 percent of the island without water, and all of it without electricity, Puerto Rico’s frustration is palpable across the island. Elí Díaz Atienza, the executive president of Puerto Rico’s water authority, said the agency is running water with generators it had in stock. All of the island’s waste water and water treatment plants lack electricity. “We still haven’t received the ones that FEMA is going to give me, but they are working with us,” he said. “We need 2,500 generators for the entire system to be running on generator power. Obviously we are not going to find that.”
Some Democrats want Congress to quickly approve a relief bill but also to temporarily forgive Puerto Rico’s loan repayments and remove a requirement that Puerto Rico make a contribution into the federal emergency pot, a cost-sharing arrangement that is typical for disaster-affected states. But Puerto Rico has little clout in the Capitol. As a commonwealth, it does not have a voting member of Congress, only a resident commissioner, something that has long shackled the island financially and politically.
With this as the backdrop and Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents in grave peril, Donald Trump occupies himself sending out endless, insulting Tweets. His current state of ire centers on NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem and his continuing war of words with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, who he derisively calls “Rocket Man.”