Relief For Puerto Rico Is Non-Negotiable [Opinion]

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

On September 20, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, utterly devastating the island’s coastal regions with wind speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour, as Time reported. In short order, the massively powerful Category 4 storm ravaged the whole of the landmass, sweeping through the densely-populated capital of San Juan with recorded wind speeds of 113 miles per hour.

As the storm catapulted its way into the North Atlantic, the clouds eventually gave way to daylight. However, the Sun did not reveal the splendors of a Caribbean paradise, but rather, a desolate expanse which evokes images from eras past of far-flung foreign lands decimated by war.

Virtually the whole of its infrastructure has been crippled or otherwise maimed. According to the USA Today, some 95 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents are currently without power. Perhaps more despairingly, the island’s roadways, healthcare facilities, water and energy supplies, have been either horrendously depleted or rendered inoperable.

Upon his arrival in Puerto Rico on Saturday, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the Department of Defense’s new top liaison to FEMA, described the destruction as the worst he’s ever seen, according to a report published by PBS NewsHour. As Albany’s Times Union reported, so dire is the situation that even individual states such as New York have sent hundreds of personnel and countless tons of supplies to the demolished island.

Destruction of Hurricane Maria.
Devastation left by Hurricane Maria in Camuy, Puerto Rico. [Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images] Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Yet while the American territory and its besieged residents desperately await the influx of relief aid from the mainland, aid sufficient to mitigate the island’s growing humanitarian crisis, President Trump has effectively transformed from a concerned commander-in-chief and into a political assailant. In addition to lambasting San Juan’s mayor for her criticism of the relief effort’s lack of speed, the president tweeted that “big decisions” will have to be made about the cost of Puerto Rico’s rebuilding.

Gas shortage in Puerto Rico.
Residents of Puerto Rico wait in line to purchase gasoline. [Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images] Joe Raedle / Getty Images

No, there shouldn’t be any big decisions regarding the financing of Puerto Rico’s reconstruction. We didn’t have to debate the level of aid sent to Florida or coastal Texas, even though they’re both debt-riddled and prone to experiencing catastrophically-damaging natural disasters.

It’s incomprehensible that we’d regard the rebuilding of American soil, an island that has been an American territory for nearly 120 years, as a process akin to haggling with contractors over service fees for the construction of an apartment building. It’s absolutely shameful that we’d so much as entertain the notion of treating Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million citizens as if they weren’t just that, American citizens.

We can do better, we must do better.

[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]