Do Puerto Rican Americans Deserve 'Electricity' And 'Water' After Hurricane? It Is A Stumper!

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Do Puerto Rican Americans Deserve 'Electricity' And 'Water' After Hurricane? It Is A Stumper!

Five years ago today, Hurricane Maria, a near-Category 5 storm, hit Puerto Rico, killing about 3,000 people and devastating the island's power system. Now, Hurricane Fiona has struck a still battered Puerto Rico with torrential rain and dangerous flash floods. The majority of homes have no power, and without electricity, there's no way to run water filtration systems and pump fresh water into homes. There's no safe water for drinking and bathing, and not even usable water for flushing toilets.

More than 760,000 customers of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority lacked reliable water service as of Tuesday morning. Putting this in perspective, 160,000 residents of Jackson, Mississippi, were impacted by last month's 40-day-long water treatment facility failure.

NPR reports:

AAA, as Puerto Rico's water agency is called, is the only water company on the island and serves 1.2 million clients, which means only 40% of households currently have clean running water. AAA President Doriel I. Pagán Crespo explained that in addition to the power outages, water supplies have been severely impacted by the flooding and surges of Puerto Rico's rivers.

"Most of the rivers are too high," Pagán Crespo said during an interview with WKAQ 580 AM on Monday, El Nuevo Día reported.

Puerto Rico is often dismissed as some far-off, underdeveloped nation, but it's a US territory. Puerto Ricans are Americans. President Joe Biden, unlike his putrid predecessor, has responded swiftly and without racist complaint. The president ordered a surge of federal support to Puerto Rico and the White House says that "more than 300 Federal personnel are already working to assist with response and recovery."

While Donald Trump gloated about Biden's apparent nosebleed seats at Queen Elizabeth's state funeral, Biden spoke with Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi on his way home from England. He discussed his administration's support for emergency and recovery efforts and informed Pierluisi that FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell would meet with local and state officials and affected citizens in San Juan Tuesday.

PREVIOUSLY:

Trump Flies To Puerto Rico To Call Them Fuck-Ups To Their Faces

Donald Trump Scolds Lazy Puerto Ricans For Letting Hurricane Hit Their Island

After Hurricane Maria, it took Puerto Rico months to restore municipal water services. Residents were forced to rely on bottled water, and those were the lucky ones: The truly desperate bathed and drank from water sources contaminated with raw sewage. According to the Associated Press, 20 of the island's 51 sewage treatment plants remained out of service, and the Environmental Protection Agency officials couldn't inspect some of the island's highly toxic Superfund sites.

Worse, a Washington Post survey revealed that 50 percent of Puerto Ricans — as in half the population — were unable to get enough clean water to drink. We repeat: Puerto Ricans are Americans.

Trump smeared Puerto Rican politicians as "grossly incompetent" and accused them of misusing federal hurricane aid. The blame game had a lopsided power imbalance. Puerto Rican politicians had to flatter the petty thug, but Trump didn't have to fear any political reprisal from people who can't vote in US elections. They can't help remove a sadistic president, and while they are on the front lines of the climate crisis, they lack representation in Congress. Puerto Rico has a population of more than 3 million.

The federal government directed $3.2 billion toward repairing Puerto Rico's electrical grid after Hurricane Maria. The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is bankrupt, so Congress assigned a fiscal board to oversee the island's finances. The board required the privatization of the power and distribution system before releasing any FEMA funds for upgrades.

LUMA Energy, a private Canadian-American consortium, won a 15-year contract with a fixed annual fee of $115 million. After taking over in June, LUMA struggled with blackouts. There was an island-wide power outage in April despite mild weather.

For now, we should focus on restoring power to Puerto Rico and ensuring all residents have safe, non-crap-spiked water. However, it's obvious that a better, longterm solution is necessary, and it should start with treating Puerto Ricans like Americans.

[New York Times / NPR]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."

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