There is a limit to the patience regarding the usual contemptuous rhetoric of the President. Donald Trump crosses the line of what Puerto Rico and the whole humanity can accept, when he tries to politicize the painful consequences of Hurricane Maria.
That´s enough, Mr. President. We ask for respect to the memory of the almost 3,000 people who lost their lives due to the erratic and deficient response of the local and federal governments. The tragedy can not be politicized or the truth hidden.
The data is there, in the death certificates released - late - by the government of Puerto Rico itself. Researchers from four American universities have validated that the death toll was at more than a thousand and it far exceeded the number announced when the President visited the island last year. That October 3, Trump announced the success of the emergency operations based on the number of deaths that the government recognized then: 16. But even before arriving, the President rejected the descriptions of what our island was going through.
According to the study by the Milken Institute at George Washington University, between September and October there was an average of 1,271 more deaths than usual. The calculation is indicative that, by the time Trump was here, there could have been an estimate average of more than 300 deaths. The prolonged reluctance of the local government to disclose data on fatalities help for the estimates to be distorted, now even by the President himself.
However, both the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Office of the Comptroller General (GAO) have recognized the chain of actions and omissions that led to the event being so disastrous. In both reports, the agencies reiterate deficiencies such as logistics challenges that complicated the efforts or the little preparation to face the event. Water boxes accumulated in Ceiba are the most recent evidence of these deficiencies.
In addition, the Milken report - commissioned by the Puerto Rican government - adds, among other failures, that the lack of intervention by health authorities to protect public health exposed citizens to more fatalities. It also stressed that poverty conditions increased the death toll.
So, either through the investigations or by admitting the fact, there are causes and consequences established. Now, as then, blaming state or federal governments diverts attention and energy necessary for reconstruction. It feeds the demagogy of those who are called to lead the reforms that prevent lossing more lives in an emergency.
No one can deny the tragedy of Puerto Rico. Nobody has any authority to mock the pain of the thousands of families who still mourn their loved ones. The remembrance of what happened before, during and after Hurricane Maria is still alive in the memory and in the heart of every Puerto Rican. It is a fresh wound, which hurts and deepens every time it is used to advance agendas.
Puerto Rico needs and deserves to be allowed to begin its healing process. The Milken study, as well as other researchers, suggest that the specific causes of each death associated with the hurricane can be investigated. Achieving this would avoid manipulation at the convenience of the stipulated estimates and it would provide information that saves lives.
Meanwhile, far from being questioned, the findings contained in the reports associated with government operations related to Hurricane Maria and its terrible result are a path, for both governments, towards preparation and resilience.
The unfortunate comments of the President of the United States offend the memory of the nearly 3,000 citizens who died and the dignity of those who, day by day, strive to move Puerto Rico forward. But they are not enough to distort the memory or the facts. Let alone will they succeed in defeating the stoic spirit of the Puerto Rican people.
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