Islandwide blackout hits Puerto Rico nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria
The company involved in Wednesday's blackout and one last week that cut power to 840,000 customers has been fired.
An islandwide blackout hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday, knocking out power throughout the island seven months after Hurricane Maria destroyed its electrical grid.
Geraldo Quiñones López, a spokesman for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, told NBC News early Wednesday afternoon that there was "zero percent" power generation on the island.
"The breakdown affected the entire electrical system and generating plants," he said.
Crews were investigating the blackout and it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power, he added.
Justo González, an executive deputy director of the power authority, said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the blackout was caused by “a circumstance with a contractor."
He said the contractor was working to remove a collapsed tower when a bulldozer approached a power line, causing it to fail.
There was “a sudden, strong change of frequency and voltage,” he said.
Just last week, 840,000 customers were left without power after a single tree fell on another power line in the center of the island, causing a massive blackout that shut service to the island's international airport, the metro area light rail line, Puerto Rico's biggest mall and the biggest public hospital in San Juan, the capital. A backup line that was supposed to prevent such an outage also failed.
The company involved in Wednesday's and last week's failures, Dgrimm, was subcontracted by Cobra, a subsidiary of Oklahoma-based Mammoth Energy Services that was hired to help with power restoration efforts, Quiñones said.
Juan Castro fills a generator with gasoline to power the cabinet-building workshop where he works in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday. Carlos Giusti / AP
Dgrimm had been asked to change its security protocols after the first power failure, a power company official told The Associated Press. Quiñones said the company had been fired and would no longer be helping with restoration efforts.
The power authority said in a post on Twitter Wednesday afternoon that energy was restored to customers in the municipalities of Maunabo, Naguabo, Mayagüez, Arecibo and Toa Baja. The islands of Vieques and Culebra never lost electrical power.
The company said in an earlier post that it was prioritizing re-establishing power to hospitals, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, pumping systems for the Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority, and central banks.
The airport said on Twitter that it was running on a generator and so far no flights had been canceled or delayed.
It's the first time since Category 4 storm Maria hit the island on Sept. 20 that Puerto Rico has experienced a full islandwide blackout.
About 40,000 power customers are still without even normal electricity service as a result of the hurricane.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted Wednesday: "The entire electrical system in Puerto Rico collapses AGAIN! Back to September 20th."
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/is ... er-n867031
How bungling has kept Puerto Ricans powerless
James GlanzUpdated May 11, 2018 at 5:07 pm
It took months to restore electricity in Puerto Rico after hurricanes dealt a one-two punch, and the system’s future is far from certain. Mishaps and lack of coordination on the disaster response had long-term consequences.
YABUCOA, Puerto Rico — Rafael Surillo Ruiz was on the way to San Juan when he noticed that all the traffic lights had gone out. Surillo is the mayor of Yabucoa, among the first communities struck by Hurricane Maria in September, and for months he had been lobbying federal officials, local officials, utility officials — anyone who might help the thousands of his constituents still waiting to get their power back.
Now, as he headed north for yet another meeting, phone calls from home confirmed the worst: Not only was his city totally powerless again; the entire island was blacked out.
“You have to understand that half our population still does not have power,” Surillo said the day after the April 18 blackout, recalling the morning after Hurricane Maria when he emerged from his operations center to see the Yabucoa City Hall devastated, houses smashed and downed power lines and poles littering the streets and countryside.
Even now, while officials say the $2.5 billion reconstruction effort has restored power to 98 percent of the grid’s customers, swaths of hilly country across the island are still pitch black after dark, punctuated by lights run on private generators. Even restored sections of the grid are nightmarishly unreliable, as evidenced by last month’s outage, the second major power failure in a week and the fourth since early February.
On the mainland, much of the coverage of the recovery has focused on the struggles of the island’s beleaguered power authority and its politically disastrous hiring of Whitefish Energy Holdings, a tiny and inexperienced Montana contractor linked to the Trump administration’s interior secretary. Here in Puerto Rico, the perception of a condescending and under-responsive government in Washington has been fed by the enduring image of President Donald Trump seeming to minimize the catastrophe while tossing paper towels into a crowd.
But an examination of the power grid’s reconstruction — based on a review of hundreds of documents and interviews with dozens of public officials, utility experts and citizens across the island — shows how a series of decisions by federal and Puerto Rican authorities together sent the effort reeling on a course that would take months to correct.
A chaotic tangle
When the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, known as PREPA, hired Whitefish for the reconstruction, it also declined to request direct assistance from mainland utilities that for decades had routinely dispatched workers to help one another recover from disasters large and small.
At the same time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency made a highly unusual decision of its own. Rather than advise Puerto Rico to accept aid from the mainland utilities, FEMA abruptly called in the Army Corps of Engineers — never mind that the corps had never rebuilt a major grid after a storm and by its own account had not made preparations to take on the task in Puerto Rico.
The result was a chaotic tangle of overlapping missions and fumbling coordination.
Compounding those problems, the grid was decrepit, corroded and poorly maintained, and PREPA — which, like Puerto Rico as a whole, is effectively bankrupt — had failed to keep sufficient stocks of replacement parts and other critical supplies. Shipments of parts from the mainland were slow to arrive and languished in the battered ports.
“I’ve never seen anything like that — not in a developed nation,” said Ed Muller, a former energy executive whose generation and transmission equipment suffered flooding by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey, severe storm damage in Jamaica and earthquakes in California.
It took more than a month for PREPA’s decision on aid from utilities, known as mutual assistance, to be undone. In late October, with the reconstruction seemingly stalled, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló of Puerto Rico met with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a veteran of Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters. Cuomo strongly recommended invoking mutual aid.
Weeks more would pass before the full mobilization got underway, but beginning in November, the first of some 3,000 utility workers from across the country began pouring in.
PREPA’s new chief, Walter Higgins, said that he was communicating with unhappy municipalities, but that the catastrophic damage in mountainous terrain made the job “more difficult than any other restoration ever experienced in Puerto Rico, perhaps anywhere.”
For its part, FEMA said its effort had moved rapidly, though it conceded that the final pieces — the “last mile” — were especially challenging.
No call for mutual aid
In Puerto Rico, “mutual aid should have been one of the first things they did,” said James Lee Witt, who ran FEMA during the Clinton administration.
Puerto Rico has 2,400 often mountainous miles of high-voltage transmission lines, 342 substations and 30,000 miles of lower-voltage distribution lines that go to neighborhoods and homes, according to PREPA. Hurricane Maria damaged 80 percent of that system.
But on Sept. 28, eight days after the storm made landfall, two parallel decisions drove the monumental rebuilding into uncharted territory.
In a conference call with PREPA, government and utility officials delivered a collective offer of mutual aid: “We stand ready to help you,” they said, according to Mike Hyland, a senior vice president at the American Public Power Association, who was on the call. But the PREPA officials, he recalled, said they were hiring Whitefish to restore the entire system.
With that, PREPA placed its chips on a tiny company with hardly any full-time employees.
At the same time, FEMA made its own request, enlisting the Army Corps to provide emergency repairs to the grid.
FEMA had already given the corps a task it routinely performed: bringing in emergency generators for hospitals, clinics, town centers and other facilities. By all accounts, those measures were carried out successfully.
But the corps “has never repaired an electrical power grid of this magnitude as part of a domestic disaster response,” said its commander, Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite. Although it had placed “a small contingent” in Puerto Rico before Maria to assess eventual damage, he added, the corps “could not predict” the assignment to restore the grid.
FEMA and the corps both said they had had no hand in PREPA’s decision to hire Whitefish. Asked why FEMA had brought in the corps, Lea Crager, a FEMA spokeswoman, said, “Due to the magnitude of this storm and the devastation caused to the grid, we knew repair and rebuilding of the grid would take a joint effort.”
Ricardo Ramos, PREPA’s director at the time, has made a series of disparate statements about why the authority did not invoke mutual aid.
“It was always my intention to call upon them,” Ramos said in a recent interview.
But until they receive reimbursement from FEMA, utilities often must pay for things like workers’ food and housing via mutual aid. In October, Ramos told The New York Times that he had not wanted to exhaust PREPA’s emergency funds paying mutual-aid groups while waiting for reimbursement.
Ramos said he had no regrets. Roselló, however, acknowledged that his government had fallen short — that it should have had “some sort of agreements already in line,” as well as a “rainy-day fund” for mutual-aid payments.
For its part, the Army Corps moved as swiftly as federal regulations allowed, Semonite said. But even after invoking emergency measures to speed the effort, he said, it was not until Oct. 19 that the corps awarded the second of two major restoration contracts. The contractors, in turn, had to scout the damage before work could begin.
In the hills above downtown San Lorenzo, Sylvia Martínez woke at 3:30 a.m. every workday, heated water on the gas stove and carried it to her bathroom in a pot so she could shower — using a plastic cup — before her long commute to San Juan. She developed an affection for easy-to-make meals of Cheez Whiz and crackers.
It was against a backdrop of scant visible progress that Rosselló met with Cuomo in a backroom at the San Juan convention center on Oct. 26, more than five weeks after the storm.
Not long after, Rosselló demanded Whitefish’s ouster and PREPA terminated the contract. Whitefish stayed to finish work that included repairing five transmission lines, which a company spokesman says was successfully done. Whitefish filed papers in federal court to recover more than $100 million it said it was still owed.
Ahsha Tribble, FEMA’s deputy administrator for the region that includes Puerto Rico, said the agency had made “unbelievable progress,” adding that “by late April, 78 percent of the transmission has been energized, as we continue to support PREPA in the emergency work to restore power.”
With the continuing blackouts, and nearly 900 temporary generators still on the island, according to congressional testimony, it is hard to gauge the true state of the grid or how lasting the fixes will be.
In San Lorenzo, after her breakfast of Cheez Whiz and coffee, Martínez still carries hot water from her stove to the shower in a 3-gallon pot. Then she drives to work in the predawn, the Big Dipper visible in the sky above the dark hilltop.
https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-wor ... powerless/
Hurricane Maria 'killed 4,600 in Puerto Rico'
Maria aftermath in Puerto RicoAFP/Getty
The official death toll stands at 64
Hurricane Maria killed more than 4,600 people in Puerto Rico, 70 times the official toll, according to estimates in a Harvard University study.
A third of deaths after September's hurricane were due to interruptions in medical care caused by power cuts and broken road links, researchers say.
Interviews conducted in Puerto Rico suggest a 60% increase in mortality in the three months after the storm.
The official death toll currently stands at 64.
But experts say an accurate count was complicated by the widespread devastation wreaked by the storm.
Record year for US natural disasters
Six graphics that sum up Puerto Rico disaster
The Harvard researchers contacted more than 3,000 randomly selected households between January and March this year and asked about displacement, infrastructure loss and causes of death.
They then compared their results with the official mortality rates for the same period in 2016, more than a year before the hurricane struck the island.
The researchers said that interrupted medical care was the "primary cause of sustained high mortality rates in the months after the hurricane".
Six months after hurricanes, many on this US island still suffer in the dark
Disruption to health care was a "growing contributor to both morbidity and mortality" in natural disasters, they said, because growing numbers of patients had chronic diseases and used sophisticated equipment that relied on electricity.
Hurricane Maria caused the largest blackout in US history, according to research consultancy the Rhodium Group.
There have also been repeated power cuts since then, including an island-wide one in April, nearly seven months after the hurricane.
The Caribbean island is home to 3.4 million US citizens.
Naomi Klein: 4,645 Deaths in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria Were “State-Sponsored Mass Killing”
STORYJUNE 06, 2018
Puerto Rican environmental activist. She’s a member of a sustainable farming resource group called Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica, part of the Climate Justice Alliance.
author, journalist and senior correspondent for The Intercept. Her new book is titled The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists. She’s also author of No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
executive director of UPROSE and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance.
We look at Puerto Rico as it continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island last September. Researchers at Harvard recently revealed the death toll from Hurricane Maria may be a staggering 70 times higher than the official count. The official death toll still stands at 64, but the new study estimates a death toll of at least 4,645, with some projections topping 5,700. The Harvard study found that “interruption of medical care was the primary cause of sustained high mortality rates in the months after the hurricane, a finding consistent with the widely reported disruption of health systems. Health care disruption is now a growing contributor to both morbidity and mortality in natural disasters.” We speak with Naomi Klein, author, journalist and a senior correspondent for The Intercept. Her new book is titled “The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists.” We also speak with Katia Avilés-Vázquez, a Puerto Rican environmental activist and member of Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica, and Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Hurricane Season is officially underway. And today we spend the hour looking at Puerto Rico as it continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island last September. Researchers at Harvard University recently revealed the death toll from Hurricane Maria may be a staggering 70 times higher than the official count. The official death toll still stands at 64, but the new study estimates a death toll of at least 4,645, with some projections topping 5,700. This is one of the report’s co-authors, Dr. Domingo Marqués of Carlos Albizu University.
DOMINGO MARQUÉS: [translated] Four thousand six hundred forty-five. So, to add something, I’ll tell you that in our study we found that in terms of the people who suffered from the hurricane, was due to the fact that the average Puerto Rican was exposed to 84 days without electric power. Moreover, it was more than 60 days without drinking water, which is a huge public health problem. And it was more than 40 days for the average person without cellular communications. So, just those three things really give reasons to the mortality numbers. Nine-one-one wasn’t only not working in small towns. It was down in all of Puerto Rico. So, when you think about those things, you can understand why the number was so high.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump has so far not responded to the new study. But in October, during a visit to Puerto Rico, Trump boasted about the low official death count.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Now, I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack, because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico. And that’s fine. We’ve saved a lot of lives. If you look at the—every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering—nobody’s ever seen anything like this—and what is your—what is your death count as of this moment? Seventeen?
GOV. RICARDO ROSSELLÓ: Sixteen certified.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Sixteen people certified. Sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people, working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was President Trump in the days after Hurricane Maria. That was the same visit where he tossed paper towels to some of the residents of San Juan.
Cable news networks are facing criticism for spending far more time covering the Roseanne story than the stunning new Harvard report, that found at least 4,645 people died in Puerto Rico because of the hurricane. According to Media Matters, the main cable news networks covered Roseanne for over 10 hours in the first day of coverage; they covered Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico for just over 30 minutes. Fox News spent just 48 seconds covering the Puerto Rico story.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz posted a message on Twitter reading, “Never forgotten! Never again!” In an attached photo, she was wearing a hat with the number 4,645.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we host a roundtable discussion for the hour. We’re joined by Naomi Klein, author, journalist, senior correspondent for The Intercept. She has a new book out; it’s called The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists. She’s also author of No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, among others. Also joining us, straight from Puerto Rico, Katia Avilés-Vázquez, a Puerto Rican environmental activist, member of a sustainable farming resource group called the Boricuá Organization for Ecological Agriculture, which is part of the Climate Justice Alliance, based in San Juan. Elizabeth Yeampierre is also with us, executive director of UPROSE and co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance.
We welcome you all to Democracy Now! You have just come, Katia, from the island. You were there when this Harvard study came out. It’s not that a lot of people on the island weren’t saying it’s actually the opposite of what Trump said at the time. He’s consulting the governor, and he said what? Sixteen, 17 people have died. That was right after. But now this number, maybe it’s 4,600. Maybe it’s 5,700 people who have died. Was that your sense of things? And what, as we move into this next hurricane season, are your major concerns right now?
KATIA AVILÉS-VÁZQUEZ: So, I think the first thing is to highlight Omaya Sosa and the Center for Investigative Journalism. They were the first ones to document and call out what we all were feeling and knew and had seen, which was that we had died in the thousands. And I think it’s really important to highlight their work. And particularly, they were able to gain a victory yesterday, to have access to the number of deaths, thanks to esquire Luis José Torres Asencio, among other people that were in the team. The 4,645 number is a statistical mean.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Excuse me. When you say that they were able to gain access, that was a judge ordering the government—
KATIA AVILÉS-VÁZQUEZ: Yes.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —of Puerto Rico to finally release—
KATIA AVILÉS-VÁZQUEZ: To release the numbers, finally. Yeah, that was—
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —the death certificates, actually.
KATIA AVILÉS-VÁZQUEZ: That came down yesterday, yeah. So, after—come in June. And the numbers, we knew that it was going to be in the thousands. And I think it’s important to not focus on whether it’s 4,645 or 5,700, because we knew it was going to be in the thousands. The study remains within a 3-month window, which is October, November, December. And it looks specifically at the survey that they were doing, and then they extrapolated based on that survey. But it doesn’t necessarily count older people that went out of time, for example, our elderly and sick, that maybe could have lasted—our knowledge bearers, that could have lasted a little bit longer, and suffered before they finally—their bodies gave up, because they couldn’t take the heat or the lack of food.
I think it’s important to—that highlights not only that it was kept secret, but the fact that it was kept secret to serve a political agenda, in the case of Governor Rosselló. That day, right after Trump left, the government recognized that the number went up to 34. So when he answered Trump’s question, it’s very unlikely that he didn’t know the number was not 16 already, so that, again, it’s just highlighting that the numbers and the entire situation has been usurped to serve Rosselló’s political agenda and the capitalists that are now taking over the island.
I think the other part that needs to be taken into consideration, like you mentioned this, that the number of deaths now, and since January, has continued to increase due to Maria. And we have not only the suicide rates that are increasing, but stoplights literally falling on people and killing them, power plants blowing up and catching fire and killing people, and then people that have continued to die because of the lack of the necessary and appropriate resources. So, if we actually take into account all those indirect deaths, again, we’re in the thousands of deaths.
And coming into the next hurricane season, infrastructure is still very weakened. Houses are still with tarps. There’s very—a lot of debris on the streets. There’s still—the water hasn’t been restored everywhere. Electricity hasn’t been restored everywhere. The boat system, La Lancha, that goes from the main island to Vieques and Culebra, is still not functioning properly. So, we’re in a very weakened state to face the new hurricane season.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I wanted to go back to that issue. The Harvard study only, as you mentioned, goes from September 20th to December 31st, yet there were hundreds of thousands of people in January and February that still didn’t have electricity, so that there were undoubtedly other deaths that occurred—
KATIA AVILÉS-VÁZQUEZ: Exactly.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —in the early part of this year, as well.
KATIA AVILÉS-VÁZQUEZ: Correct. And there are still some that happened a couple of weeks ago, because—indirectly, because of that. Like I mentioned, literally, a stoplight fell, and the person that it hit recently died. So, we’ve had continuous deaths indirectly to the hurricane and its impact on infrastructure.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Naomi, I wanted to ask you about—you first did an article, a long article, and now this book, in terms of what you saw when you went down to Puerto Rico, and also the—how much Puerto Rico has fit into one of your main theses that you’ve developed over the years of disaster capitalism.
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I was there—I was actually there with Elizabeth Yeampierre, and we were lucky enough to be shown around to some parts of the country by Katia. And, you know, we saw people in February having to travel very long ways to plug in their oxygen machines, you know, elderly people, because they still didn’t have electricity. So I think that this goes to the point that the deaths were continuing after the count stopped for this particular study.
And I’m really struck by this phrase that these are deaths “due to” Hurricane Maria, you know? It’s not due to Hurricane Maria. Maria was the catalyst. But if you look at the study, the cause of death in so many of the cases, the largest cause, was the collapse of the healthcare system, which is intimately tied to the collapse of the electricity system, which is intimately tied to the collapse of the water system. So, this is really about a total infrastructure failure, right? And it didn’t just fail. A total society doesn’t have its infrastructure fail, unless you systematically knock out every support structure and you do so knowingly.
You know, I keep thinking about this phrase, from four decades ago, by the great late investigative journalist Rodolfo Walsh, the Argentinian kind of inventor of investigative journalists in so many—of investigative journalism in so many ways. When he was describing the economic policies of Argentina’s military junta, he called it “planned misery.” And I think that applies so much to what is going on in Puerto Rico right now, that this has been a planned system of immiseration. Maria comes along, and it’s just the final blow.
But, you know, I keep searching for a phrase to describe this. It’s not a natural disaster. It’s not just a tragedy. It’s state-sponsored mass killing. That’s what we’re talking about here, because maybe there wasn’t the intent to kill, but there was the knowledge that the infrastructure was being destroyed. And even after we see the results, the deadly results of it, they’re doing it still. And, you know, this comes to what, Juan, you’re asking me about how this fits into what I’ve written in the past about disaster capitalism in The Shock Doctrine. Even after seeing the effects of such brutal austerity and the thousands of lives it has taken, what is the response? More of the same—huge doses of austerity that they’re pushing right now, trying to kill–trying to close hundreds of schools, more layoffs, more neglect. And the cost of this is counted in thousands and thousands of lives.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to the White House press briefing Tuesday. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about Puerto Rico.
HUNTER WALKER: Does the president still think his response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico deserves a 10-out-of-10 score, now that estimates say almost 5,000 people died there?
PRESS SECRETARY SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: The federal response, once again, was at a historic proportion. We’re continuing to work with the people of Puerto Rico and do the best we can to provide federal assistance, particularly working with the governor there in Puerto Rico, and we’ll continue to do so. Peter?
HUNTER WALKER: Any concern about the massive volume of the death toll there?
AMY GOODMAN: So, there are the reporters asking about the volume of the death toll, and the White House spokesperson saying, “Doing the best we can.” Elizabeth Yeampierre?
ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: Well, what we understand is that FEMA is evacuating people instead of rebuilding. We know that even before the hurricane, that lots of people were being pushed out of Puerto Rico, so many of them moving to Central Florida. We estimate that by 2020, I think something like 600,000 Puerto Ricans will have been pushed out of the island. We know that here, in New York City, those people who are in temporary shelters are also faced with eviction. They’re living under the worst kind of circumstances. They get frisked when they get into their homes. They have to show their ID as if they were in some form of incarceration.
And I think that one of the things that concerns us the most is that this effort of evacuating the island is really an opportunity to really privatize the entire island. And so, if there are no people there, it really makes it easier for the United States to support corporate interests. One of the things that I’ve been concerned about is what happens, for example, with those 23 Superfunds that exist in Puerto Rico and a lot of the toxic exposure that people are being exposed to. None of that is being addressed by the U.S. government. Those are U.S. corporate interests, and those are sites that are managed by U.S. corporations. And that’s another source of death for people in Puerto Rico. So, it’s really disappointing.
But I also think that there’s not a lot that is being expected of the U.S. government in this situation. We saw what happened in New Orleans, and we saw how people were treated in New Orleans. And people in Puerto Rico have not fared better than that.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break. When we come back, we’re going to take a little of the trip with you that Naomi Klein and Elizabeth Yeampierre went on in Puerto Rico, when they followed you, Katia, and others. We’re talking to Naomi Klein. This is the day the book The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes On the Disaster Capitalists is released, with the big event tonight at Cooper Union. Elizabeth Yeampierre is with us. She is co-chair of Climate Justice [Alliance], among other groups. And Katia Avilés is with us. Katia Avilés is a well-known Puerto Rican environmentalist working in agriculture with the group Boricuá Ecological Agriculture. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: “Resilience,” a new song by the Puerto Rican artist Taina Asili.” This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Juan?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yea, I wanted to follow up. Elizabeth, before the break, you were talking about the federal response. And one of the things that folks have not gotten much—paid much attention to is that the—Trump’s Federal Communications Commission recently decided that they were going to sharply reduce the Lifeline project, which most people are not aware of, but the Lifeline project is a project that provides cellphone and broadband services to low-income Americans. And there are 500,000 people in Puerto Rico who receive that Lifeline. It’s a government subsidy for communications. Now, we all talk about the communications catastrophe that occurred in Puerto Rico, but 369,000 people in Puerto Rico are going to lose—there’s 500,000 in Puerto Rico who receive this service; 369,000 are going to be cut off as a result of this decision. And they’re not going to have access to even government-subsidized communications in an emergency situation like this. Another example of how, in very—in many different ways, the federal government is failing the people of Puerto Rico.
ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE: You know, what’s really interesting is that we’re living in the age of climate change. And everyone who is talking about climate adaptation, resiliency, building social cohesion, one of the central things to making it possible for people to survive recurrent extreme weather events is a good communications system. And so, we just finished hearing about a report where people lost their lives because they had no access to communication. They couldn’t get access to healthcare. They couldn’t get access to—you know, if they had diabetes and they needed medical care.
And so, by doing that, by dismantling that and by diminishing that, it really increases the chances that more people are going to die. It increases vulnerability. It destroys social cohesion. And it really is an attack on the survivability of the Puerto Rican people. And I think people think of communications, and they don’t see the relationship between the ability for people to have access to all of their needs, through that system, and their survival. And there really is a direct relationship. And that’s just one of the many things that is happening in Puerto Rico to really make it impossible for people to make it through.
https://www.democracynow.org/2018/6/6/n ... _deaths_in
Jerky » Sat Jul 14, 2018 7:01 am wrote:Again, it should be emphasized that the death toll of 4,600 is the MINIMUM/CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE.
It could be thousands more.
American citizens. Dead. While Trump lobbed rolls of paper towel from a rolling airplane staircase.
How are Trump and FEMA not having their feet held to the fire in public hearings yet?
How come heads aren't rolling down every street in Washington DC?
WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!?!?!
‘We did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico’: Trump defends response despite spike in deaths after Hurricane Maria
David NakamuraAugust 29 at 5:11 PM
Trump on Puerto Rico: ‘We did a fantastic job’
One day after Puerto Rico revised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to nearly 3,000, President Trump on Aug. 29 praised the federal government’s response. (The Washington Post)
President Trump on Wednesday defended his administration's response to a devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico last year, despite a study released this week that said there was a spike in deaths on the island in the six months that followed.
“I think we did a fantastic job,” Trump said, responding to a question from a reporter at the White House. He called the emergency on the island “by far the most difficult” of the areas of the United States and its territories ravaged by hurricanes.
“It's hard to get things on the island,” Trump said, comparing the situation to response efforts in Texas and Florida, which also suffered significant damage.
The president's remarks came a day after a sweeping new report from George Washington University found that there were an estimated 2,975 excess deaths on the island after Maria made landfall in September 2017. The Puerto Rican government embraced the findings as the official death toll, ranking Maria among the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history. For much of the past year, the government had formally acknowledged just 64 deaths from the hurricane, which ravaged much of the territory and destroyed critical infrastructure. The spike in mortality came as the territory dealt with widespread and lengthy power outages, a lack of access to adequate health care, water insecurity and diseases related to the crisis.
Trump and his administration had been heavily criticized for not responding to the crisis in Puerto Rico as thoroughly as they did to the disasters caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the continental United States. As he had in the aftermath of the storms last year, Trump emphasized the magnitude of the challenge Wednesday, calling the back-to-back hurricanes “the likes of which we have never seen before,” and sought to shift blame onto Puerto Rico, citing the U.S. territory's debt and infrastructure problems as contributing to the crisis.
[Study: Hurricane Maria and its aftermath caused a spike in Puerto Rico deaths, with nearly 3,000 more than normal]
“When the hurricane came, people said, 'What are we going to do about the electrical?' That wasn't really the hurricane. It was before the hurricane,” Trump said. “We've put a lot of money and a lot of effort into Puerto Rico.” He said Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who unlike other politicians in the territory has been supportive of Trump, was “happy with the job we've done.”
At a news conference Tuesday, Rosselló accepted the GWU report, which found that his administration was largely unprepared for the magnitude of the storm, and acknowledged he had “made mistakes.”
It is “time to correct what we didn’t do well,” he said.
Trump praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency as “very brave” in its response to the storms last year. Of Puerto Rico, he said: “I only hope they don't get hit again. … Puerto Rico had a lot of difficulties before they got hit. We're straightening out those difficulties even now.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/pos ... fe7b96ceec
After butting heads with Trump administration, top HUD official departs agency
https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/ ... C6Y34xxop7
Billions of Puerto Rico's debt might be invalid, federal oversight board says
Jan. 15, 2019, 10:55 AM CST
By Nicole Acevedo and Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The federal control board (FOMBPR) that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances is asking a court to invalidate more than $6 billion worth of debt issued by the U.S. territory, a move that would hit bondholders.
The board said late Monday the debt includes all general obligation bonds that were issued in 2012 and 2014 in “clear violation” of debt limits established by Puerto Rico’s Constitution. Instead of adhering to a balanced budget requirement, they were used to finance deficit spending.
If a federal judge agrees with the allegations, bondholders would lose their investments.
“This really is a milestone,” Puerto Rico economist José Caraballo told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “It is perhaps the board’s best move in its two years of existence."
It is unclear when a judge would rule on the board’s motion, but Caraballo said it gives the government bargaining power, noting that Detroit made a similar move during its bankruptcy.
Caraballo said those who bought general obligation bonds during that time might accept a big cut instead of risking a total loss, according to him, most of them are hedge funds and not individual investors.
“It was a very speculative emission,” he said. “They ran the risk of lending to a government they knew was in trouble and ignored the margin established in the Constitution.”
The board’s findings come after the board called for an independent investigation that began in September 2017 of all debt issued by Puerto Rico and its connection to the island’s current fiscal crisis.
According to the report released in Aug. 2018 by the firm who helped the board conducts its investigation, as of May 3, 2017, Puerto Rico had about $74 billion of bond debt and $49 billion of unfunded pension liabilities.
"For an economy of Puerto Rico’s size, the burden of this debt has been catastrophic—it has been a financial, and ultimately a humanitarian, catastrophe. The toll it has taken on the people of Puerto Rico begs a pressing question: How did it happen?" the report stated.
Advocacy groups like Hedge Clippers have been very vocal about the need to answer such a question.
“The Fiscal Control Board finally acknowledges what we have been saying for years, that the debt is illegal and shouldn’t be paid," said the group in a press release regarding the board's latest move. "The Board has the power to stop this abuse by allowing a citizen and democratic audit of all the debt, and then return to the Courts to demand the cancellation of all illegal debt."
No government officials have been accused of issuing debt above the limits established in Puerto Rico’s Constitution.The island’s now-defunct Government Development Bank, which issued loans and oversaw debt transactions, ceased operations in March amid a 12-year recession.
The bonds were issued in 2012 during the pro-statehood administration of Gov. Luis Fortuño as well as under the pro-commonwealth administration of Gov. Alejandro García Padilla.
Puerto Rico is trying to restructure a portion of its more than $70 billion in public debt and a federal judge is scheduled to hold a two-day hearing within days on a major debt restructuring case involving bonds backed by a sales-and-use tax.
Puerto Rico’s government announced in June 2015 that it was unable to repay its debts and declared a form of bankruptcy in May 2017.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/bil ... d_nn_tw_ma
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