The Puerto Rico disaster continues on all these months later as the U.S. island territory still struggles with lack of power and water shortages, while the U.S. mainland efforts to help have either been insufficient or rife with ineptitude and corruption.
Around 450,000 of the island’s 1.5 million electricity customers remain without power as a result of the Puerto Rico disaster. Even those who have working power experience frequent blackouts. All this over four months after Hurricane Maria landed on the island.
People have begun stringing their own power lines, but meanwhile, the destruction of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure has reaped further devastation on the island. Jobs have been lost, houses foreclosed on, police have been called away, and criminal activity has risen in the vacuum.
Access to potable water is similarly a struggle for many Puerto Ricans. More than 40% of schools do not have electricity.
The Puerto Rico disaster, however, is more than just the hurricane’s doing, critics argue. The federal government has been inept, some believe, in its efforts to aid the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, for instance, collected tarps under Operation Blue Roof, but it still has thousands of them in storage even after all this time. It has also only fulfilled about half of the total requests, leaving as many as 30,000 households without roofs.
Congress and the Supreme Court have also allowed Puerto Rico to be governed as an unincorporated territory, which means that the federal government is less responsible for the island than it would be for, say, a state, despite the fact that Puerto Ricans are Americans with full citizenship.
The result has been that Congress has often authorized less funding for the development of Puerto Rico and for federal assistance programs targeted at the island.
Puerto Rico now faces many challenges at once. Between the lack of infrastructure repair, growing crime waves, electricity deprivation, and debt that is estimated to be in the vicinity of $150.0 billion, the U.S. territory is quickly resembling an undeveloped country versus a territory of the richest nation on earth.
“After Four Months, Much of Puerto Rico Still Dark and Damaged,” The Atlantic, January 29, 2018.
“Puerto Rico Is A Man-Made Disaster,” HuffPost, January 29, 2018.