(El Nuevo Día)

Puerto Rico urgently needs all branches of government to focus their efforts and attention on recovering from the crisis caused by recent earthquakes.

One month after the earthquake that changed the lives of many people, especially in the southwestern region where hundreds of houses collapsed, it is necessary to speed up decision-making processes to provide stability to citizens.

It is urgent to implement a comprehensive plan to resolve -without delay- education, health and housing needs of a significant part of the population affected by the earthquakes.

The school system remains shaken since many schools have not resumed activities. Authorities have been slow and non-transparent in their efforts leading to return to classes.

Of the 857 schools open by the end of 2019, a total of 526 remained closed until yesterday, Thursday. That means that one month after the earthquake, only 38 percent of the schools are open.

The Education Department said 25 percent of all schools will not reopen for the rest of the school year. The government estimated that it will complete the inspection of all schools this week, but did not say when it will report which ones are not safe to receive students.

That is not an acceptable scenario. We support the agency's decision to inspect all buildings. But that shouldn't have happened at the expense of keeping so many children out of classrooms for so long, even those living in areas where there was no major damage associated with the earthquakes.

Many of those who have left Puerto Rico in recent days said they do so because of the lack of certainty regarding their children's return to school, as El Nuevo Día reported over the weekend. Some mayors have offered safe facilities to serve students whose schools cannot reopen. There are viable short-term temporary alternatives that should be considered.

The Education Department must r decisively respond to this situation that is damaging for thousands of students, mostly from the most vulnerable sectors. It has a constitutional obligation to provide public education.

Meanwhile, hundreds of victims, including the elderly, wait under tents to be effectively relocated to safe houses close to their communities. The government has given itself until March to relocate them.

Until Wednesday, almost 3,000 people were sleeping under tents or in makeshift camps: 1,106 in the 14 shelters run by the Housing Department and 1,887 in 40 other shelters.

Amid this situation, it is also necessary to ensure that hospitals are able to deal with possible emergencies in the event of a major earthquake or to provide care to patients with a possible diagnosis of the new strain of coronavirus that already requires extraordinary measures to stop its spread.

This complex situation makes it imperative for government officials to stop internal political struggles that represent an unnecessary distraction right now. Divided into sides as has been publicly shown, the government loses perspective on the urgency and priorities that require the articulation of an immediate action plan free of partisan interests.

Puerto Rico cannot be left at the mercy of the power struggle within the New Progressive Party. Its leaders are called to serve the island as its only priority, with generosity and commitment, with a sense of urgency, responsibility, and transparency that Puerto Ricans have demanded and deserve.


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