The Ugly Truth About Puerto Rico
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Two months after the Sept. 20 landfall of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico -- like the nearby Virgin Islands -- is still in a state of horrifying devastation. The help being offered by the Trump administration is thin to the point of being cruel and unusual.
At this point one must ask: Is Trump's astonishing lack of aid part of a larger plan to cleanse the islands of their native populations, drive down real estate values and create a billionaire's luxury hotel-casino-prostitution playground la Cuba before the revolution?
In other words: ethnic cleansing for the superrich.
There is just one piece of good news: Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., has joined Rep. Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands in proposing that Puerto Rico's electric grid be rebuilt with wind, solar and a network of micro-grids. More than half the original electric grid is still not functioning, with frequent blackouts occurring in areas where the grid is operational.
Amid a widespread green campaign (more on that later), Lieu and Plaskett have asked the public to cosign their letter to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to "invest in a more resilient energy infrastructure focused on renewable energy technology and distributed generation."
One major wind farm on Puerto Rico's south shore did survive Maria intact, as did the solar array of a local greenhouse business. Elon Musk has revived a children's hospital by shipping in a solar/battery array that is sustaining the few medical facilities in San Juan with reliable power.
But overall, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are in such horrific shape that it's hard to dismiss the idea that the weak recovery effort might be by design. Consider this:
-- Throughout the islands, U.S. citizens are dying due to lack of clean water. Tens of thousands are still without food, clothing, medical care or even basic shelter.
-- A CNN survey of Puerto Rico's burial services found a minimum of 499 deaths in the wake of the storm. That number cannot begin to cover the entire scope of the casualties, as many of the corpses have never made it to funeral homes. The official government death toll is about 65. When Trump visited the island he proudly put it at 16, complimenting FEMA for keeping it so "low."
-- Despite enormous resources available, the Trump administration has failed to deliver even sufficient tarps to cover rooftops that have been shattered or blown away altogether.
-- North Carolina activist Ana Blackburn reported on prn.fm radio's "Green Power & Wellness Show" that her mother, who lives in central Puerto Rico, is feeding more than 100 people per day at a church kitchen that can barely scrap together enough food for everyone.
-- She also confirmed widespread reports that FEMA workers are delivering small quantities of bottled water, but nowhere near enough to prevent desperately thirsty locals from drinking contaminated water from polluted streams and even from designated SuperFund sites (hazardous waste dumps), resulting in widespread sickness and death.
-- FEMA has been responding to requests for help by handing people without phone service or electricity a flier with a phone number to call and a website on which to fill out an application.
-- Many in Puerto Rico have died because most of the island's hospitals have no power and cannot provide surgery, dialysis and other basic life-saving services. Insulin and other medicines have spoiled due to lack of refrigeration.