The news from Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria continues to get worse. Not only does the majority of the island remain without power nearly 40 days after Maria made landfall, but the government response remains completely inept and negligent. People still don’t have money to buy the food and supplies they desperately need, and many are dying from contaminated water and a collapse of the health care system. Yet government officials (both in San Juan and in Washington) are awarding and then canceling fraudulent $300 million contracts to random, suspicious companies to rebuild the power grid. All of this does not bode well for improving conditions when it comes to the health, well-being, and safety of the millions of residents living on the island.
It’s hard to imagine that it can get any worse—but sadly, it does. On Tuesday, San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz was scheduled to meet with FEMA in order to discuss recovery efforts. She made it all the way to Washington, DC, only to have her meeting “suddenly” cancelled.
Carmen Yulín Cruz said she was supposed to meet with FEMA Administrator Brock Long to discuss the agency response to the September 20 hurricane, which to this day has left 75 percent of the island without power—only to discover the meeting had been scrubbed and not even been rescheduled after she landed in the U.S. capital.
In her own words, Yulín Cruz describes what happened:
Republicans cancel Hearing where Brock Long FEMA Dir and myself where to testify on FEMAÃ¢ÂÂs readiness in PR. What are they afraid of? pic.twitter.com/8kEePG9F7a
— Carmen YulÃÂn Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) October 31, 2017
This is so incredibly shameful, it almost defies logic—except it’s already clear that logic and sanity have completely taken leave of America in the Trump era.
Is this some kind of sick punishment for Yulín Cruz’s outspoken criticism of how the federal government has responded to this disaster? Is it yet another way Trump and the Republicans show their utter disdain for women, especially women of color? She has been absolutely right, and this proves the points she’s been making since September. People are desperate and need help, yet they are trapped in between a bureaucratic nightmare and political showmanship. In fact, the head of FEMA pretty much admits it.
It is unclear why FEMA canceled the meeting. Earlier this month, Long said Cruz’s complaints about the agency’s recovery effort amount to just “political noise.”
“We filtered out the mayor a long time ago,” Long told ABC News. “We don’t have time for the political noise.”
They may not like what she has to say, but “filtering her out” doesn’t do any good. One may not like her tactics, but it’s Yulín Cruz’s consistent pleas for help that have helped to continue to raise awareness about the scale and scope of this disaster. Even the United Nations has taken notice.
“We can’t fail to note the dissimilar urgency and priority given to the emergency response in Puerto Rico compared to the U.S. states affected by hurricanes in recent months,” said Leilani Farha, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on adequate housing.
“All reconstruction efforts should be guided by international human rights standards, ensuring that people can rebuild where they have lived and close to their communities,” the full panel’s statement added. “Reconstruction should aim to increase the resilience of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure, housing and hospitals against future natural disasters.”
It’s clear that this administration has no plans to truly help the people of Puerto Rico. FEMA, as an agency, has once again managed to bungle the response to a disastrous hurricane. The FBI is now investigating possible wrongdoing after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed a shady deal between Puerto Rico Power Electric Authority (PREPA) and Whitefish Energy, and then had to cancel due to the backlash. Meanwhile, who knows how long it will take to find and approve another contractor to get the power back on.
But the biggest failure of leadership comes from the orange popular vote loser in the White House who has no idea how to govern or lead—least of all with empathy, and most certainly not in the midst of a crisis where people are suffering and dying. They say “the fish rots from the head,” and that is most certainly true in this case. And if this big fish is our government, then perhaps we can imagine America as the water in which the fish swims. At this point, we are living in an unfortunate reality and it needs repeating over and over again: this particular rotten fish has infected the entire damn ocean.