Puerto Rico two weeks after Maria

La Semana - - FRONT PAGE / PORTADA -


The is­land of Puerto Rico was dev­as­tated by the worst hur­ri­cane in its his­tory nearly two weeks ago.


Parts of the Caribbean is­land - home to 3.5 mil­lion peo­ple - re­main iso­lated, and phone net­works have been cat­a­stroph­i­cally ru­ined, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to con­firm the pic­ture on the ground.

But as Mr. Trump fi­nally went to see the dam­age for him­self on Tues­day, the de­struc­tion wrought by Hur­ri­cane Maria will take months to re­cover from. And, as Tulsa res­i­dent Dr. Edith Baez Baez, a na­tive of Puerto Rico, told La Se­m­ana, most of the aid touted by Trump in his pub­lic ap­pear­ance with the is­land’s gov­er­nor has yet to reach the ar­eas far­ther from San Juan.

“The per­for­mance was noth­ing but theater,” Baez said, adding that watch­ing it, “made me sick.”

“Trump was lucky most of the peo­ple of Puerto Rico had no idea he was there be­cause al­most all com­mu­ni­ca­tions are still down,” she added.

What does Puerto Rico's re­cov­ery look like two weeks after Maria?

Part of the rea­son Puerto Rico's re­cov­ery has been slowed is the is­land's re­liance on air and sea ports to bring fuel, wa­ter and food. Run­ways needed to be cleared of de­bris and sup­plies were stuck in the is­land's ports be­cause of a US law that lim­its ship­ping be­tween parts of the US to US-flagged ves­sels.

Puerto Rico pressed the US to lift the act, and Pres­i­dent Trump waived the act for 10 days to help with the re­cov­ery.

Among the most lin­ger­ing dan­gers of the hur­ri­cane is the lack of clean wa­ter on the is­land, a fig­ure that rose over the week­end to more than half of the is­land's pop­u­la­tion.

Pub­lic health ex­perts worry that this prob­lem will make the weeks after the storm more deadly as san­i­tary con­di­tions worsen.

While agri­cul­ture is no longer a pri­mary driver of Puerto Rico's econ­omy, the de­struc­tion of the vast ma­jor­ity of crops on the is­land means grow­ers in the cof­fee, plan­tains and other pop­u­lar agri­cul­tural in­dus­tries have lost their en­tire liveli­hoods in a sin­gle storm.

Loss of crops also means Puerto Ri­cans will need to im­port more of their food, an ef­fort made more com­pli­cated by the nearby ex­port­ing coun­tries in the Caribbean who have also been hit by hur­ri­canes.

The storm knocked much of Puerto's Rico com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture, split­ting a cru­cial link be­tween fam­ily mem­bers that live in the con­ti­nen­tal US and on the is­land, as well as mo­bile phone net­works that could be used to or­ga­nize the re­cov­ery re­sponse.

Re­build­ing the mo­bile phone net­work is ex­pected to take at least weeks, if not months.

Res­i­dents of Puerto Rico are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, al­though they have no vot­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Congress and can­not send elec­tors to vote in US pres­i­den­tial races.

Only about half of main­land Amer­i­cans in a re­cent poll know Puerto Ri­cans are fel­low Amer­i­cans. In a sur­vey, knowl­edge of their cit­i­zen­ship meant re­spon­dents were slightly more likely to sup­port re­lief aid. (BBC/La Se­m­ana)

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