[News] Anger mounts in Puerto Rico as workers discover warehouse full of unused aid

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 21 12:54:33 EST 2020


  Anger mounts in Puerto Rico as workers discover warehouse full of
  unused aid

          By Genevieve Leigh
          21 January 2020

In the aftermath of nearly a month of relentless earthquakes and 
aftershocks, the island of Puerto Rico continues to reel from the 
devastation. Thousands of homes and buildings have been destroyed or 
severely damaged.

Facing the threat of further quakes on top of constant aftershocks, 
thousands of families have taken to the streets, living in makeshift 
tents or in their cars, out of fear that their houses will collapse on 
top of them. At least 7,000 people are reported as living in shelters 
throughout the island due to the quakes and thousands more remain 
without power and running water.

Amid these dire circumstances, there is a widespread understanding among 
workers and youth that local politicians and the US government will be 
of little to no help. On Saturday, in Ponce, the second largest city on 
the island which was near the epicenter of the quakes, residents 
discovered a warehouse piled high with water, cots, propane tanks, 
medical supplies, baby food and other desperately needed unused 
emergency supplies that the government had failed to dispense to the 

    *The discovery of the supplies set off a social media uproar after a
    video went viral of a group of residents breaking into the warehouse
    to retrieve the goods.*

As the discovery of the warehouse demonstrates, the response from the 
local and federal government to the catastrophe continues to be abysmal. 
Many residents have expressed a horrifying sense of /déjà/ vu over the 
last month of earthquakes, which takes place only three years after 
Hurricane María hit the island in 2017. The negligent response from the 
government in the aftermath of the hurricane led to the deaths of an 
estimated 7,000 people, a fact that the government sought to cover up 
and deny for more than a year.

Cots under a tent in a parking lot in Yauco where a group of family 
members has been sleeping after their house was destroyed

In fact, many reports are now suggesting that the supplies found in the 
warehouse in Ponce on Saturday have been stored away since Hurricane 
Maria in 2017. It is unclear how or why the supplies never reached those 
in need.

While the government response to the life-threatening conditions has 
been slow, the response from Governor Wanda Vázquez to the eruption of 
anger over the video was remarkably prompt, though wildly insufficient. 
Vázquez fired the director of the island's emergency management agency, 
Carlos Acevedo, only hours after the video was released on Saturday in 
an attempt to quell the eruption of mass unrest. Two more officials were 
fired on Sunday, Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family 
Secretary Glorimar Andújar. Vázquez was installed last August after mass 
demonstrations involving up to 1 million people forced the resignation 
of two governors.

The governor nominated José Reyes, who oversees the National Guard in 
Puerto Rico, to be the new commissioner for the State Bureau for 
Emergency Management and Disaster Management. Under the pretense of 
“emergency relief,” Vázquez is laying the basis for a police state in 
preparation for another wave of massive social unrest. So far, 8,500 
National Guard troops have been deployed and all local police have been 
called back to duty from vacations. Washington is in the process of 
sending 300 security officials from special task forces and Vázquez 
signed an executive decree last week so that the latter are immediately 
sworn in as “agents of peace,” with special enforcement powers. The 
local legislature has also requested the federal government deploy 
Special Forces from the US military.

There is immense anger among the working class both on and off the 
island toward local and federal politicians alike. Over the last decade, 
and the past three years since Hurricane María in particular, the 
working class in Puerto Rico has passed through incredible political 
experiences: the imposition of the dictatorial Obama-era Financial 
Oversight Management Board, which has imposed savage austerity measures; 
the systematic destruction of public education, including the closing of 
hundreds of schools; the state-sponsored cover-up of the death toll from 
Hurricane María; and, perhaps most importantly, the overthrow of two 
governors as a result of mass protests involving more than a third of 
the island’s entire population. The grievances of the Puerto Rican 
people are deeply rooted in these experiences, along with over a century 
of semi-colonial exploitation of the island by US imperialism.

The level of trust in local and federal politicians is undoubtedly at a 
record low. Among the hundreds of comments posted on the viral warehouse 
video one read, “I’m sure the governor of Puerto Rico knew about this. 
I’m sure she’s using the director of the island’s emergency management 
as a scapegoat. They were holding aid for political reasons. People need 
to go to jail. All these Democrats have no consequences for their 
actions, so why stop breaking the law. So many corrupt democrats.” 
Another wrote, “This happened last time as well. Was there any 
investigation and consequences then??”

Someone else ridiculed Vázquez’s firings as a stunt. “That guy involved 
only got sacked. So easy, no consequences. He should be charged and put 
behind bars for a long time. What he did is tantamount to murder, 
obstructing the survival of life’s needy victims.”

Another commenter asked why such tragedies are so frequent. Answering 
her own question, she replied, “Because the rich don’t care, that’s why. 
The poor people suffer and it doesn’t matter what party is in charge.”

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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