Washington - Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares affirmed yesterday at the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival that the setbacks to re-establish the power grid and the uncertainty regarding the hurricane-related deaths are lessons learned after the emergency caused by Hurricane Maria.
"The recovery (of the power grid) was full of bureaucracy," Rosselló said, reiterating his criticism of the US Army Corps of Engineers and insisted that the federal agency promised to restore the power grid in 45 days.
He said that nine months later, "between 5,000 and 10,000" families may still be without power.
In that sense, he alluded to his failed forecast regarding that 95 percent of the residents of the island would have electricity withing three months. "I made a mistake when I said that my expectations were that by December 15 (2017) we would have nearly 100 percent of the island energized. We were not close to that. I learned my lesson," Rosselló said, as he participated in a panel at the Aspen Institute in Colorado on the lessons learned as a consequence of the 2017 natural disasters.
Consequently, the US Army Corps of Engineers has denied that it promised to restore electricity in 45 days.
Craig McLean, Acting Chief Scientist at the Oceanic and Atmospheric Affairs Administration (NOAA); Jacqueline Fuller, head of Google.org; Christopher Womack, Executive Vice President of Southern Company; and Allison Morris, Vice President, Corporate and Foundations Partnerships at Mercy Corps participated in the forum with Rosselló.
When referring to the death toll -which might total hundreds or thousands, not the 64 that were certified last December-, the governor said that "we used a protocol from the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that was not really effective" . In general, Rosselló Nevares recognized that "recovery has taken too long".
A blank Canvas
However, after the suffering and devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, Governor Rosselló affirmed that Puerto Rico now has the opportunity to design a sustainable economic future over a "blank canvas".
Rosselló said that, within a period of five to 10 years, Puerto Rico can position itself as a "human cloud" destination, referring to independent workers without geographical labor ties who want to link their obligations with spending most of the time in a tropical paradise.
Despite advances in other areas, such as Miami (Florida), Rosselló said that his administration also wants to strengthen Puerto Rico as a link between the Americas, a center for innovation and a public policy based on transparency.
Although without access to financial markets, due to the fiscal crisis and public debt, Rosselló considers that the possible access to between $ 50 and $ 100 billion in federal assistance to mitigate the disaster can be the bridge towards the construction of a new critical infrastructure led by the power grid. "It is an opportunity to identify the needs and make significant changes," he said, underlining that the reconstruction process must have resilience as the main focus.
Rosselló Nevares, as he did on other occasions, tied his vision of economic development for Puerto Rico with his ideal of turning the island into the 51 state of the United States and obtaining full access to social welfare programs, such as the financing of the health system.
"It is important that we reach a final solution. I support statehood, "said Rosselló Nevares, who will be in Washington D.C. today.
But, at the same time, he promoted Puerto Rico as a place with unique tax incentives, such as laws 20 and 22 that have attracted investors from abroad and that are related to the current territorial status.