-OP-Ed -As published in The Hartford Courant
At first it was heartbreaking, then after days of seeing the photos of the ongoing suffering and devastation caused in Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria, for many the sadness turned to anger.
It was known immediately the storm had wiped out most of Puerto Rico’s electric, water and communications infrastructures, as well as roads throughout the country. Complicating emergency relief efforts to the island even further were the local bureaucracy and that the entry points by air and sea were not fully functional.
It seems it would be clear to everyone; time was of the essence. The White House assured us federal resources were activated. But within days we heard these messages from friends and relatives on the island and through the news: No help yet. We are desperate, no water, food running out, medical supplies low.
Finally, five days after the storm and his NFL twitter feud, Donald Trump, the person who is responsible for the welfare of all Americans, stood behind the presidential podium and fraudulently declared emergency efforts were going well in Puerto Rico.
Why then had frantic residents in one town made a large SOS sign hoping it would be spotted from the sky, so water and food could arrive? Or, why did a woman in Quebradillas rush to a news reporter landing in a helicopter, crying and hugging her? Almost a week after the storm, members of the news crew were the first outsiders who appeared. How had they managed to get there but not emergency crews?
There are many heart-wrenching examples of this administration’s seemingly callous attitude toward our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. Among them, the inexcusable 10-day delay in waiving the oppressive Jones Act, which prohibits ships, other than those from the U.S. from entering Puerto Rican ports. The president originally placed the U.S. shipping industry’s business interests over the misery of more than 3 million Americans on the island. Another reprehensible case in point, the USNS Comfort, a naval hospital ship remained comfortably docked in Virgina the day after the storm. It was finally announced this week it would leave in four days and then spend five days at sea, an eternity for those in need, some in life and death situations.
The residents of Puerto Rico are not second-class American citizens. It’s not only that they pay most federal taxes and have fought valiantly in the U.S. military, but they warrant our help as fellow Americans. Those at the top level of government should be ashamed for this negligence. Where is their humanity?
Diane Alverio is a founding member and publisher of CTLatinoNews.com. She is a former news reporter and was born in Puerto Rico.