Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, a devastating hurricane that left Puerto Rico with thousands dead, millions without electricity, many for months, and billions of dollars of damage. As a territory, Puerto Rico received far less support than the states, and the territory is still working to recover and rebuild from that tragedy.
On September 18th, just two days before the anniversary, Puerto Rico was hit by a category 1 hurricane, Hurricane Fiona. Three million residents were without power, and just a small fraction have had their power restored. The Comprehensive Cancer Center had to evacuate because their power failed, though most medical facilities are running on generators.
Just 30% of residents have running water, but about 76% have cell phone service.
Schools have closed across the Island. More than 1,000 people have been rescued and provided with space in shelters. FEMA told El Nuevo Dia that they have about 1,000 helpers on the ground.
Different this time?
Rep. Jenniffer González Colón is working with FEMA, the Coast Guard, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Small Business Administration to identify and meet the needs of the Island.
The federal government as well as the territory leaders are all doing their best to make it clear: they don’t plan to repeat the failures of the government response to Hurricane Maria.
However, Puerto Rico’s territory status continues to limit the ability to solve problems. The infrastructure is fragile, the safety net has been underfunded for decades, and Gonzalez Colon is the only voice in Congress representing Puerto Rico.
“Hurricane Fiona is just the latest in a series of events that manifests the impossible political situation in which Puerto Rico finds itself. As an unincorporated territory, without representation in Congress, it cannot advocate for itself and must rely on the good graces of others. This is not a foundation on which to create a lasting democratic society,” wrote Andrés L. Córdova at The Hill. “The ongoing congressional ping-pong game regarding the Puerto Rico Status Act, for example, reminds us that not all ill-winds are from hurricanes.”