The Suffolk Journal

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Puerto Rico, Trump and insensitivity

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For the islands in the Caribbean, hurricane season can be erratic. On the evening of Sept. 20, disaster struck and effected 3.4 million American citizens in Puerto Rico (P.R.), a territory of the United States. The category four hurricane, Maria, made landfall with winds reaching up to 155 miles per hour and destructive floods. Entering through the southeast coast and exiting through the northeast, Maria left 100 percent of the island without power, communication lines ceased to work, houses got blown away and thousands of people are now in desperate need of food, water, clothes, gasoline, medication and help.

What is the U.S. government doing about this?

In between his off-time golfing and ranting about the National Football League’s peaceful protests, President Donald Trump found some time to comment on Puerto Rico’s governance leadership, stating how “poor” it is and how “they want everything to be done for them,” but not making an effort to help them. He also made time out of his “busy” schedule to visit the island on Oct. 3 where he threw paper towels into a crowd and said he would eliminate P.R.’s debt.

“You know what annoys me the most? That they ask the people to be calm, to be patient… they ask people to be organized when [the government] is not,” said Mariana Cabiya, 19-year-old resident of Bayamón, Puerto Rico.

Cabiya related how scared she was and how every night, in complete darkness; people were stealing and killing others in order to get their resources. If not, it’s in the six-hour lines that people get overwhelmed in and resort to violence for every little issue. “I don’t feel safe, there is a lot is going on.”

It took Trump a week to address the situation via tweets, where he said, “Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.”

Many public figures have tried to get Trump to act on this matter by calling him out and demanding his attention.

Additionally, people have joined forces in organizing food drives, as well as collecting donations. In three days, there were hundreds of truckloads filled with necessities and millions of dollars collected in various funds.

Trump could have acted immediately and sent troops to help with relief tasks, but did not. On top of this, communication problems have made it hard for local government to effectively address the situation. P.R.’s governor, Ricardo Roselló, has responded to the extent that he can within the difficult situations he and the rescue teams have found along the way. Today, there are still towns in which authorities have yet to reach to calculate damages or offer relief. Mayors are having trouble identifying dangers, victims, damages, deaths and recovering their cities from disaster. A more appropriate response from the U.S. would have involved the workforce to assist in these drastically needed tasks.

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, was deeply disappointed by Trump’s comments and lack of actual action. “It just goes to prove the lack of sensitivity,” she said, referring to Trump’s choice of words during what she called a public relations situation. In a second meeting, where Trump was not present, further actions were discussed between U.S. and P.R. government.

This is really concerning; Puerto Rico is having a humanitarian crisis and the responses have taken too long. These next weeks are going to determine the future of Puerto Rico and it’s people.

The United States should be worried about Puerto Rico and need to be doing everything they can to help. From their position, the most helpful resource is their voice. It is time to speak up for the 3.4 million American citizens that live in Puerto Rico; have them be heard and get them the help they most desperately need.

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Puerto Rico, Trump and insensitivity