The university  estimated that 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico due to causes related to the devastation and emergency caused by the hurricane. (GFR Media) (semisquare-x3)
The university estimated that 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico due to causes related to the devastation and emergency caused by the hurricane. (GFR Media)

Washington - The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics (PRIS) offered the George Washington University (GWU) to finance the second stage of the study on the deaths related to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

However, PRIS has not received an answer.

Mario Marazzi, PRIS executive director, had provided El Nuevo Día with details about the request made to GWU regarding information about that university’s proposal to conduct the epidemiological study on the estimated 2,975 people who died in Puerto Rico due to causes related to the devastation and emergency caused by the hurricane.

Marazzi spoke on the issue this weekend during the Puerto Rican Diaspora Summit that took place at the University of the District of Columbia, in Washington D.C. The activity was organized by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies.

"GWU has said that what is slowing down the second stage (of the study) is the lack of funds. We have the money and the will to finance it," said Marazzi, who participated in a panel on good governance, accountability and transparency along with comptroller Yesmín Valdivieso, Cecille Blondet, executive director of Espacios Abiertos (Open Spaces), and the co-founder of the National Puerto Rican Agenda, Gretchen Sierra Zorita.

Marazzi said that PRIS Governing Board has approved the idea of promoting an epidemiological study that will allow to determine the time, place and causes of deaths related to the cyclone. "That kind of study has to be done ... But it´s been many months and we have not received any proposal (from GWU)," he said.

Until the Milken Institute published its initial study - commissioned by Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares - the government's official death toll was at 64 deaths, despite the growing number of studies that estimated hundreds or thousands of fatal victims.

Comptroller Valdivieso - when talking about the issue at the Diaspora Summit- questioned that, for long months, the governor left for the death toll in the hands of the only official - the Secretary of Public Safety Héctor Pesquera- who "wants to keep the numbers as low as possible," like in crime statistics.

According to Marazzi, that is the conflict that arises in the government when the same officials are consumers and producers of public information. "The Institute seeks to break that cycle," he added.

 Blondet and Marazzi described how they had to resort to Court to request public information, and criticized the lack of accountability that, they said, characterizes the island´s government.

Deficiencies in the counting of deaths and the response to natural disasters, said Blondet, are just some examples.

She also alluded, among other things, to thesecrecy to handle tax decrees and to the stop put to the original "open data" legislation submitted to the Senate.

Meanwhile, Valdivieso insisted that she will seek to audit the expenses of the Oversight Board.

However, the comptroller anticipated that she will need the money to finance a judicial 


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