The basic idea: Two months ago, a massive hurricane struck the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico. U.S. domination had already oppressed and impoverished the people of Puerto Rico. This hurricane made it much worse. Millions now have no electricity. Hundreds of thousands have no water, or no roof over their head, or both. People are hungry and many are breaking down. Yet the policies of the Trump/Pence regime make it worse. And Trump’s attempts to blame the people themselves are training white Americans to accept and cooperate in genocide. This must be OPPOSED!
A monstrous crime continues to be carried out by the Trump/Pence regime against the people of Puerto Rico—with no end in sight.
Two months ago, September 20, Puerto Rico and its 3.4 million people were struck by Hurricane Maria, the tenth most destructive Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. Nearly all electrical power to the entire island was lost; homes everywhere were decimated; half of the people lost access to drinking water; roads across the island were blocked; and cell phone service was completely knocked out.
The hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida just before Maria struck Puerto Rico were also devastating. But Maria smashed into a U.S. colony already impoverished and made vulnerable by over a century of U.S. domination—including the massive $70 billion debt Puerto Rico owes to predatory financial institutions1 and impending government shutdown and infrastructure collapse.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the Trump/Pence regime is—through deliberate policies of cruel neglect and racism—causing the Puerto Rican people to go through torture and slow death. This is threatening to impose long-term devastation on the island that could make it unlivable for hundreds of thousands of its people.
Millions today are living without electrical power, and hundreds of thousands without clean water. Because of Puerto Rico’s crushing financial debt, the infrastructure required for a society to function was already in perilous condition: its electrical grid, water purification and distribution, communications, transportation, food distribution, health care and housing. Two months after Hurricane Maria, less than half of Puerto Rico’s power grid is operating, leaving over 750,000 homes and businesses still in the dark. A week ago there was a failure of a main power line, leaving over 80 percent of the people without power until it could be restored. With 50,000 utility power poles and 6,500 miles of cable that have not even been brought to the island, this crisis affecting families and businesses in the most fundamental way is going to continue indefinitely.
The lack of power to water pumps continues to leave vast numbers of people without drinking water, forcing them to make long trips on foot to haul water from distribution points. Many people who are elderly or ill cannot do this on their own, leaving them with only polluted water for drinking, cooking and bathing. Waterborne diseases have already taken lives in the wake of the hurricane.
Hundreds of thousands of people have no roof over their heads. There are 250,000 damaged roofs in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, and people are being flooded again with each new rain storm. There is an extremely urgent, critical need for temporary tarpaulins to cover the damaged roofs in homes, but FEMA has only distributed about 42,000 tarps, a fraction of what is needed. Meanwhile people are forced to live in the most desperate conditions.
A Guardian reporter recently visited a town of 80,000, 30 minutes from the capital, San Juan, and found that every other house had no roof. The reporter talked to one elderly woman at her house, where the walls were caked with mud and the upstairs had no roof, making it completely open to the elements. She told the reporter, “I’m worried because I’m alone and when it rains all the water gets in.” She sleeps on an inflatable mattress in the corner of her kitchen, wearing her only set of usable clothes. Across the street, a man on dialysis is in the same situation.
An unprecedented mental health crisis. Mental health professionals report that much of the population in Puerto Rico is showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress. One doctor told the New York Times that in 20 years as a psychologist, he had never hospitalized as many people with suicidal or homicidal thoughts in such a short period of time. There are parents reporting that their children haven’t spoken since Hurricane Maria hit or cry uncontrollably every time it rains.
Denial of access to emergency food aid. While in Texas and Florida food aid came relatively quickly for most storm victims, not so in Puerto Rico. For 35 years, Congress has limited funds available for food help on Puerto Rico by replacing the food stamp program with a block grant, only giving a certain amount of money regardless of the level of need. Half the population of Puerto Rico was already living in poverty when Hurricane Maria hit—in the storm’s aftermath, there were no funds available for food programs, and Puerto Rico was denied any access to the disaster relief section of the food stamp program. While emergency food stamp funds have finally been granted, these funds have still not arrived, and the harm has already been done.
The more than a century of U.S. domination has been a disaster and horror for the oppressed people of Puerto Rico. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America makes clear that the radically new, liberating society brought into being through revolution that overthrows the U.S. capitalist-imperialist system will end the deadly hold of the U.S. over Puerto Rico and recognize the independence and the right of self-determination of the nation of Puerto Rico.
With the rise of the Trump/Pence fascist regime, and especially since Hurricane Maria, the U.S. domination of Puerto Rico has intensified in genocidal ways. From the very start, Trump has responded to this disaster with murderous disdain and contempt. Trump blamed the Puerto Rican people for the hell they are going through, saying, “They want everything to be done for them.” He said the island was “already a disaster,” and complained that aid costs would throw his budget “out of whack.” These attempts to blame the Puerto Rican people themselves for their oppression and suffering are training white Americans to accept and be complicit in the fascist regime’s criminal actions.
In response, the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, said, “If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying. And you are killing us with the inefficiency… If we don’t get the food and water into people’s hands, you are going to see something close to a genocide [our emphasis]… the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of.”
The deliberately murderous actions against the Puerto Rican people reek of the open racism and ugly American chauvinism of the Trump/Pence fascist regime. The very future of the Puerto Rican people is at risk.
1. One aspect of this is the 100-year-old Jones Act (or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) which allows only U.S. shipping companies to carry cargo between Puerto Rico and other U.S. ports. This has cost Puerto Rico nearly a billion dollars a year for the 30 years ending in 2010. Economists have analyzed that without the Jones Act, there would be no public debt in Puerto Rico. [back]