But now, at this moment, the nearly 3.3 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico expect a swift, efficient and decent response from the presidential institution.
It is the minimum that citizens deserve from a country that Puerto Ricans have courageously defended for more than a century, in the name of democracy that seeks equality for all. Residents of this island and their descendants in the states still risk their lives for the United States.
Donald Trump should know that Puerto Ricans, five million of them living in the states, have brought jobs, wealth and lives to the American nation. And they have done so with courage and without compromising their dignity or that of others.
As distress grows over the uncertainty of the tropical storm, Puerto Rico demands respect from President Trump. Puerto Rico also demands the necessary resources to withstand major storms like Dorian.
The President has once again lied to the world about the federal disaster relief funds Puerto Rico received after Hurricane María. Trump falsely insists that the island received $ 92 billion in recovery funds. Congress has allocated – not released – about $ 49,36 billion for disaster mitigation after Hurricane María. This figure represents just over half of the amount Trump claims to have disbursed. Although disbursements are about $ 20 billion, reconstruction funds only total $ 1,5 billion.
Nearly 30,000 homes still with tarps on their roofs are the living proof of delays in federal allocations and so are so many roads and bridges still damaged and vulnerable to atmospheric impacts.
As the storm was developing, Puerto Ricans confirmed that Trump does not consider Puerto Rico a priority. For example, the Doppler radar – the only one on the island – works intermittently since it was reinstalled after Hurricane María destroyed it. It was repaired Tuesday night as Dorian was approaching the Caribbean Sea. There are uncalibrated U.S. Geological Survey stations at critical points where they measure the level of precipitation, as well as the rise in river levels that may pose risks to the safety and lives of neighbors and pedestrians.
Certainly, in the face of natural phenomena, we Puerto Ricans must plan, prevent and protect ourselves. It is equally important that local authorities establish, and comply with, parameters of transparency and accountability in the use of funds.
But the federal government is not exempt from its responsibility to its citizens on the island. The U.S. President should make sure that federal agencies, in coordination with local ones, work hand in hand to overcome deficiencies documented before, during and after Hurricanes Irma and María.
It is also an appropriate occasion to explain to the President that Puerto Rico will continue under hurricane threats due to its tropical geography, intensified by the climate change that the Trump Administration refuses to mitigate in cooperation with other industrial nations.
The experience of 2017, which caused about 3,000 deaths, should not be repeated. Donald Trump, in his presidential responsibility to U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, has to work in harmony with Puerto Ricans to make it possible.