Hola y Bienvenido!
Welcome back friends and family as I attempt to update you on Puerto Rico’s long road to recovery. I want people to understand just what really is happening for our friends and family on the isla de Puerto Rico. I feel like you need to know the severity of the aftermath Irma left behind.
Yesterday, President Donald Trump was to visit Puerto Rico along with the U.S. Virgin Islands to view Hurricane Irma relief efforts in the territories first hand. This is good, because he needs to see the real devastation and crisis that is really happening over there on the isla because we are part of the US whether we want to be or not. And, I feel as the president he should help my isla de Puerto Rico.
The governor said that Puerto Rico will host about 3,000 victims of Irma from the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean countries that suffered a direct hit from what was then a e Category 5 storm. Pictured below is a little girl looking for clothes in one of the many hurricane relief facilities.
As, I’ve spoken about previously in recent posts over 500,000 people lost power in Puerto Rico, which avoided a direct hit from Hurricane Irma after the storm tracked just north of the island. But hurricane force winds in some places reached 100 miles per hour, causing a crumbling power grid to falter, and officials warned it could take months to fully restore power in parts of the island.
More than half the island of Puerto Rico was without power, leaving 900,000 in the dark and nearly 50,000 without water, the U.S. territory’s emergency management agency said in the midst of the storm. Fourteen hospitals were using generators after losing power, and trees and light poles were strewn across roads.
The Govenor of Puerto Rico Rosselló said Thursday that power has been restored to more than 90 percent of Puerto Rico after 75 percent of the island lost power when Irma passed just north of San Juan on Sept. 6. He’s been in regular communication with the White House over the past week and said that White House officials have pledged to support Puerto Rico’s needs. Puerto Rico sustained an estimated $1 billion in damage from Irma, up from an initial estimate of $600 million.
Puerto Rico has suffered serious damage from Hurricane Irma, adding yet another problem to the pile. Without serious federal help, this crisis will continue indefinitely.
Here is what the Governor of Puerto Rico had to say yesterday, “We will start making the proper arrangements so that we can mitigate future impacts,” Rosselló said, adding that he has talked with Trump, Speaker Paul Ryan and other leaders in Congress about Puerto Rico’s needs.
“Some of these infrastructures were designed for 155mph winds, they don’t do that anymore so we really need to make sure that whatever efforts and whatever funding we’re getting we can use…it to mitigate in the future.”
“This could provoke a $30 billion higher expenditure on health care for the United States as a whole,” Rosselló said. “Should we address the problem in Puerto Rico it would be a longer term, less costly solution for the United States.”
What Puerto Rico needs right now is a big check from the federal government to get its economy re-pressurized, coupled to a debt restructuring and partial write-down to get it on a realistic repayment schedule. This would ideally be coupled to a thorough economic overhaul, and finally U.S. statehood. “Structural reform” has become a dirty word due to it usually being code for austerity and neoliberal assault on workers, but Puerto Rico’s economy really does need work. Its labor force participation rate and productivity are low, its unemployment and poverty rate is high. Those problems will not be solved with budget cuts, but they are real problems.
In June 2016, Congress and President Obama passed a bill supposedly to address the economic crisis in Puerto Rico, by imposing external dictatorship on the island. Called the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (or PROMESA), it placed an unelected seven-member board in total control of all important policy. You’re probably wondering if Obama did the right thing? The answer to that is,”No.”
The supposed justification was to give the island some way to get through bankruptcy. In reality it has set the island up for a decade of mass unemployment and crisis — without remotely fixing the debt problem. It’s no accident the locals call the board “La Junta.”
Puerto Rico got into debt trouble through a combination of odd tax loopholes, irresponsible governance, and even more irresponsible lending. The details are complicated, but the most important thing to remember is that every bad loan has two parents, borrower and lender. If it was irresponsible to take money, it was even more irresponsible to give it to an entity that was clearly in over its head. Other Wall Street goons in the form of “vulture funds” have been downright predatory, buying up abandoned debt on the secondary market for a small fraction of its face value, then filing a blizzard of lawsuits to get the government to force Puerto Rico to pay up in full, by cannibalizing its public infrastructure.
The other thing that must be remembered is that the austerity always demanded by creditors during a debt crisis is straightforwardly self-defeating. As many countries have demonstrated since the 2008 financial crisis, austerity during a depression makes a debt problem worse, by strangling the economy and reducing tax revenue. It’s like trying to undertake heavy manual labor while on a starvation diet — you just make yourself weak and sick.
If Congress does not reauthorize funding for Puerto Rico’s health care system, it could run out of money by March 2018.
Rosselló was in Washington on Thursday with Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and a host of other current and former senior officials from the territory. Their message, in addition to making sure that Puerto Rico gets enough federal help after Irma, is that Congress must act to ensure that the territory’s health care system remains solvent and that the territory must be included if Congress passes an overhaul of the nation’s tax system.
And leaders from the island are making the pitch to Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, who chairs the tax writing committee in Congress, that Puerto Rico must be included in any plan to overhaul the nation’s tax system.
“Puerto Rico has the peculiarity of being treated domestic for some things, but is foreign for tax purposes,” Rosselló said. “If Puerto Rico is not included in this tax reform, it will be a devastating blow to our economy and to our growth potential.”
As the days and weeks progress I will try my hardest to keep up with the disaster relief in Puerto Rico and keep ya’ll updated with any new developments as I can get ahold of such information. Like I’ve said in pervious coverage posts it is very hard to get any information on what is happening in Puerto Rico.
Please continue to pray for Puerto Rico as well as the other islands in the Caribbean. My thoughts and prayers are with the many families from my isla as well as the other places that were majorly hit in the path of hurricane Irma. As always, I’d like to thank each and everyone of you for reading this as I mentioned earlier Puerto Rico is barely gaining any media coverage.
Just know we the people of Puerto Rico, we are strong and we are survivors and we will get through this together!