WASHINGTON - This time, Puerto Rico´s Republican Resident Commissioner, Jenniffer Gonzalez, agreed with Puerto Rican Democrats in Congress when indicating that FEMA internal report on the federal response to the 2017 hurricanes, shows that the immediate response of Donald Trump´s government to the devastation caused by María in Puerto Rico "was not the best".
"The lack of a detailed plan to replenish supplies in Puerto Rico, when 80 percent of the supplies located on the Island had been sent to the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Irma, left Puerto Ricans destitute in the middle of the hurricane season," Gonzalez said.
On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security released a report in which FEMA acknowledged that it was not prepared to deal with a catastrophe like the one caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Among other things, the report indicates that FEMA underestimated food and water supplies required to address the island’s needs.
The report points out, among other things, that when the winds of the hurricane entered Puerto Rico, the amount of supplies on FEMA’s warehouse was already deficient, since their supplies had been destined weeks before to the US Virgin Islands, where hurricane Irma had wreaked havoc.
"They should have been more proactive in resupplying the Island's inventory, given that we were in the middle of the hurricane season. We have discussed these issues in several meetings and the agency has recognized that they need to adjust, and will be adjusting, their emergency plan so that this does not happen again. I will be asking the agency to submit a report detailing the supplies that are located on the Island, as well as the federal action plan for this hurricane season," Gonzalez said.
Delay in food supply
Among other things, FEMA acknowledged that the distribution of the 35 million meals it claims to have delivered took longer than expected, and that it had fewer available employees than those needed for the hurricane season.
The report notes that FEMA was not able to efficiently track who needed the food and some of the aid delivered.
"This report makes clear what we already knew: that FEMA was profoundly unprepared for Maria, its response was hobbled by incompetence and lack of leadership and, tragically, the people of Puerto Rico suffered because of it. This administration was woefully unready for the severity of this storm and it cost Puerto Ricans their lives. From the President on down, this Administration failed 3.3 million American citizens in Puerto Rico," said Democratic Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (New York).
Meanwhile, also Democrat Jose Serrano (New York) noted that "FEMA’s lack of planning and coordination made a bad situation worse, and many Puerto Ricans needlessly suffered as a result. We can’t allow a crisis like this to happen again".
Luis Gutiérrez (Illinois), for his part, argued that President Trump laid the groundwork for a poor response with his criticisms of the cost and those false complaints that Puerto Ricans did not want to assume responsibility during the emergency.
"The response of the federal government to the crisis in Puerto Rico was criminally negligent and, in fact, worsened the situation. Faced with this revelation, FEMA must immediately mobilize to help Puerto Ricans who are still suffering and are desperately in need of help," said Hector Figueroa, president of the 32BJ Service Employees International Union and coordinator of the Vamos por Puerto Rico (Vamos4PuertoRico) coalition.
"FEMA should cease and desist from its attempts to pressure Puerto Rican citizens living in the United States into returning to a devastated island, and instead, work with those displaced people to ensure they have the necessary resources to rebuild their lives and make their transition towards stable housing conditions," he added.
Figueroa said that "beyond the racist and anti-Latino attitudes of the Trump administration", the federal government "is allowing corporate vultures to take advantage of the humanitarian crisis" Puerto Rico is facing, with plans aimed at privatizing its power grid and its schools, and sell "public lands at bargain prices".
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