Editor’s note: The Peoples Tribune spoke with Francisco Duprey, who returned recently from Puerto Rico where he has been working in transportation. He gave us a firsthand report on the situation there. It is improved but remains far from normal.
The idea that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) did a “helluva job” is not true. Francisco Duprey reports that the incompetence in delivering aid to the hard hit island nation resulted in needless death and misery for the people already suffering. He reports the NGOs, including the religious ones, did a superior job in delivering emergency supplies and service.
Even though electricity and potable water exists for 90% of the island, thousands have left and thousands in rural areas have been without it for over a year.
The people more and more understand why they, even as citizens of the richest country on earth, are subjected to such misery. It is because of the colonial status of Puerto Rico. Both the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, and Gov. Ricardo Rossello have referred to the colonial relationship of Puerto Rico to the U.S. as a reason for continuing crisis.
Duprey notes the Jones Act as a principal long-term problem in that all imported products to the island must be delivered by U.S. flagged ships, greatly increasing retail costs. Milk, for instance, costs $5.75 a gallon on the island compared to an average $2.50 on the mainland.
With a loss of population comes many problems but those are made worse by Puerto Rico’s debt to investment bankers. They have forced Puerto Rico into cutting back schools and vital services so that the debts get paid, no matter who suffers.
Duprey warns that even as Puerto Rico welcomes aid from tycoons like Elon Musk who is establishing solar power stations, the people must be aware of the massive land grab going on. Real estate developers and banking interests are scooping up huge swaths of damaged coastal property intent on turning the island over to the wealthy.
With Trump’s disgraceful mockery of the tragedy which killed over 4000, we pretty much know what to expect. Privatization of the island dooms the vast majority of the Puerto Rican people. Charter schools are replacing public and the disaster of the hurricane won’t be wasted by the speculators as the entire island is being auctioned off.
Only a broad-based people’s movement that rejects corporate dictatorship in Puerto Rico and in the mainland U.S. will have a chance against these oppressive forces.