One Hundred Days After Maria: Trump/Pence Regime Continues Its Monstrous Crime Against the People of Puerto Rico

January 1, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


NOTE: It’s important to state that what we write below about Puerto Rico also largely applies to the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). USVI is smaller and has its own particularities, but it is, like Puerto Rico, an oppressed colony of the U.S. that was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria. And as with Puerto Rico, the ruling colonial power—the United States—has all but completely refused to carry out serious and needed relief, leaving large parts of the population in a disastrous situation for many months.

On November 20, wrote: “A monstrous crime continues to be carried out by the Trump/Pence regime against the people of Puerto Rico.” In that article, as in previous ones, we called this out as “genocide.”

Now, six full weeks later, and over 100 days since hurricanes Irma and Maria finished devastating Puerto Rico, what is the situation? Has the Trump regime “got its act together” and come to the aid of Puerto Rico? Has power been restored, homes rebuilt, health care and clean water reestablished, and so on? Is recovery moving along, with brighter days ahead?

The answer to these questions is NO, NO, and fuck NO.

As of December 29, 2017, roughly half of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people still have no electrical service.

This means no power for life saving in-home medical equipment like oxygen machines, and no fans or air conditioning for infants, the ill, and the elderly who are vulnerable to heatstroke. It means intermittent power for dialysis centers. It means no power to treat or boil water, leading to the spread of water-borne diseases like pinkeye (conjunctivitis), diarrheal diseases, and leptospirosis (a deadly bacterial disease). It means soaring numbers of bone fractures as people stumble around their broken homes in the dark. It means no TV or movies for entertainment, no Internet, and often no cell phone service. It means businesses unable to function, which means no jobs or income to buy food and other necessities, or to pay rent or home mortgages. And on and on.

It is nothing less than a catastrophic breakdown of a modern society.

And it means deaths far, far beyond the lies told by the slavish governor, Ricardo Rossello, who for months insisted that only a few dozen had died... a lie eagerly picked up and celebrated by Donald Trump. No, according to the Center for Investigative Journalism (and validated by other investigators) nearly 1,000 additional people died in the first 40 days after the storm (i.e., by the end of October). And because conditions have not improved substantially in the two months since then, it is a certainty that many more people have died since then.

A great deal of this suffering and death was completely unnecessary... it was NOT a result of the severity of the storm, or “incompetence,” or mere corruption.

What was needed—what was obviously needed—after the storm hit was a massive relief effort on the part of the colonial power, the U.S., which for a century has looted Puerto Rico of billions in labor and resources. What happened was a disgusting display of racist disregard and disrespect. Trump tweeted insults at the Puerto Rican people, claiming they were lazy and wanted everything done for them, just weeks after he had praised—and funneled massive aid to—people on the mainland who had been hit by major storms.

There were no emergency cabinet meetings to mobilize resources, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), underfunded, understaffed, and without any real leadership, floundered around accomplishing little to nothing for weeks. Basic supplies like tarps to cover destroyed roofs were not provided; other aid sat in warehouses or on runways. In the face of an estimated $95 billion cost for recovery, a paltry $5 billion loan was pledged by the U.S. government in October. And according to the mayor of San Juan, even that has yet to be delivered.

The colonial authorities and/or FEMA (blame game is ongoing) actually turned down the offer of help from other utilities in the region which is offered automatically after major disasters. Instead, PREPA (the colonial power utility) contracted for much of the repair work to be handled by a two-person Montana company with political connections to the Republican Party that could not possibly have handled the job (and which in fact failed miserably and was fired after six weeks). And even today, basic supplies, like telephone poles, are not available because they are being used in Texas and Florida—areas that have largely restored power and are not in a state of crisis... and areas that—unlike Puerto Rico—Donald Trump considers to be “American.”

To a very large degree the people of Puerto Rico have been left on their own, with help from private relief agencies and small groups of heroic volunteers. People have done the best they could, organizing distribution of water, sharing generators, tending to the elderly and ill. But the massive aid needed never showed up, and at this point the U.S. is actually scaling down its relief operations, even while half the population is still in a state of acute crisis.

Roughly 200,000 Puerto Ricans have fled the island for the U.S. mainland, where many have found little assistance, work, or means to live. Meanwhile, the economy of Puerto Rico is threatened by complete collapse, with full power not expected to be restored until May.

The vicious, conscious, racist, and genocidal character of all this is further revealed by the fact that the new “Tax Reform” passed and celebrated by the Republi-fascists includes devastating new taxes on Puerto Rico, including a 20 percent tax on goods shipped to U.S. companies from their Puerto Rican subsidiaries. This tax could well drive out the large pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, which currently accounts for 30 percent of Puerto Rico’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and tens of thousands of jobs. Since Puerto Rico is theoretically “part” of the U.S., there is no “rationale” for this, other than to batter the Puerto Rican economy and people.

What we wrote in October is clearer and truer now than ever:

What is going on in Puerto Rico is not a matter of “incompetence,” of Trump “not knowing” that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, nor of logistical problems. It is a purposeful manifestation of this regime’s fascist character and its hatred and contempt for the lives of nonwhite, Spanish-speaking people.

And this shines through ever more fiercely as a reason for millions to step up to the struggle to make things right—to carry forward the immediate urgent necessity of driving the fascist Trump/Pence regime from power, and to prepare the ground for a thoroughgoing socialist revolution aimed at putting an end not only to imperialist oppression of colonies like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but to all forms of oppression and exploitation.



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