Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

Poverty Rampant, Puerto Rico Destroyed, Single Payer “Too Expensive,” and Flint Still Doesn’t Have Clean Water. But You Can Have Space Force!

Trump channels Jim Crow era in announcing more militarized space

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-18-2018

Photo: Nerdiest

President Donald Trump made the demand for more weapons sound not only ridiculous but also implicitly racist on Monday when he announced a new branch of the military—Space Force.

Speaking at a White House meeting of the National Space Council, Trump declared, “My administration is reclaiming America’s heritage as the world’s greatest space-faring nation,” and said he urged his “administration to embrace the budding commercial space industry.” Continue reading

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San Juan Mayor Says Trump’s “Total Neglect’ of Puerto Rico Must Be Called Out

“The United Nations says that when people are denied the access to basic human services—like electric power, like water, like food, like appropriate medical care—it is like a violation of human rights.”

Rally for Puerto Rico hurricane relief at the Capitol. Screenshot: YouTube

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-4-2018

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz tore into the Trump administration’s response to the ongoing catastrophe on Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and denounced the president’s “total neglect.”

Her comments to MSNBC on Sunday follow a Harvard study estimating that the death toll as a result of the storm was in the range of 793 to 8,498 and deeming the original official estimate of 64 excess deaths “a substantial underestimate.” Continue reading

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Police Unleash ‘Brutal Attacks’ on Austerity Protesters in Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico

While “inhumane and strikingly antidemocratic” budget cuts are imposed on the U.S. territory, outrage after law enforcement used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up May Day demonstrations

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-2-2018

Police in Puerto Rico use tear gas on a May Day protester on May 1, 2018. (Photo: @JessedHagopian/Twitter)

Police in Puerto Rico deployed tear gas and fired rubber bullets to shut down May Day protests as thousands of people took to the streets of the U.S. territory, which is still battling the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria—and a debt crisis that preceded the storm.

While people worldwide demonstrated Tuesday to demand improved labor conditions on International Workers Day, Puerto Ricans also turned out to protest the Trump administration’s failed response to the humanitarian crisis that followed the hurricane as well as austerity measures imposed by the federal government both before and after the storm struck last September. Continue reading

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Instability Mounts in Puerto Rico Amid Privatization Efforts and Power Authority’s Cash Shortfall

“If this is not disaster economics and this is not setting the stage for commercialization of services that are there to promote equality, I don’t know what is.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-19-2018

Many rural areas in Puerto Rico remain without power, and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said Monday that privatization has directly resulted in delays to restoration. (Photo: Western Area Power/Flickr/cc)

As nearly 250,000 Puerto Ricans remain without power five months after Hurricane Maria struck the island territory—the longest blackout in U.S. history—the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said Sunday it will reduce its operating reserve to save money, as the island’s government moves toward privatizing the authority.

A federal judge denied PREPA a $1 billion loan over the weekend, saying the authority could not prove it needed the additional cash injection. The company will now reduce its reserve by 450 megawatts, saving $9 million per month but likely resulting in more power outages. Continue reading

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‘Can You Say Corruption?’ Puerto Rico Contract for Trump-Connected Raises Concerns

Tiny company financed by a major donor to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party awarded no-bid contract to rebuild energy grid

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-24-2017

Puerto Rico’s electricity utility, PREPA, offered a $300 million contract to a small private firm to repair its power grid. Whitefish Energy is funded by a major Trump donor. (Photo: Whitefish Energy/Twitter)

Critics raised suspicions on Tuesday over a $300 million no-bid contract that was awarded to a small, two-year-old private energy company to restore Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. The company is financed by a major donor to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, and also has connections to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Whitefish Energy, based in Whitefish, Montana, had only two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico over a month ago, leaving about 75 percent of the island still without power.

State utilities on the U.S. mainland have helped power authorities like Puerto Rico’s recover quickly from disasters like Maria in the past through mutual aid agreements, leaving many to wonder why Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) would rely on a company that has no experience with extensive restoration projects.

“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why PREPA would go to Whitefish,” said Susan F. Tierney, a former Energy Department official, in an interview with the Washington Post.

As the Daily Beast reported, Federal Election Commission filings show that the founder of the private equity firm that finances Whitefish Energy donated $20,000 to a pro-Trump PAC during the 2016 election as well as more than $30,000 to the Republican National Committee.

The company is also run by a contact of Zinke’s—Andy Techmanski—who once hired the Interior Secretary’s son for a summer job. Zinke is from Whitefish, but his office told the Post that he only knows Techmanski because “everybody knows everybody” in the small town.

Whitefish has hired nearly 300 workers from across the country so far to help repair the infrastructure. According to Aaron C. Davis, investigative reporter for the Post, the company is charging PREPA hundreds of dollars per hour for their subcontractors’ work, far more than average rates.

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‘People Are Dying’ But Trump Gives Himself Perfect ’10’ for Puerto Rico Response

“The lasting image of this administration may well be Puerto Ricans having to drink contaminated water from polluted streamswhile waiting for timely, appropriate federal aid.”

Written by Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-19-2017.

Image via Twitter.

Despite an estimated one million people still living without drinking water, 80 percent of the island wihout electricity, and fresh reports that people are “dying” on the island, President Donald Trump stirred outrage on Thursday by giving himself a perfect “ten” on his response to the crisis in Puerto Rico.

“The people in Puerto Rico are dying,” said National Nurses United (NNU) vice president Cathy Kennedy, who returned Wednesday from a two-week relief trip with the union’s Registered Nurses Response Network (RNRN). “Nurses have been going out into communities, where all they ask for is water and food. And when you have to make a decision of who’s going to get the food today or the water — we shouldn’t have to do that. The United States is the richest country in the world; Puerto Rico is part of the United States.”

Yet Trump told a different story about the recovery in the Oval Office on Thursday, speaking to reporters as Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rossello looked on.

“I would give myself a ten,” he said. “We have provided so much, so fast.”

“Trump’s callous, self-appointed grade reflects everything that is wrong with the alleged relief effort in Puerto Rico,” Bonnie Castillo, director of National Nurses United’s Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), told Common Dreams via email.

The nurses who returned from the relief trip, she continued, “are horrified by the massive damage, dislocation, and trauma they have witnessed. It includes one million people living in darkness, many of them in homes with roofs blown off, soaked furniture, dangerous black mold growing everywhere, lengthy waits for food and water from FEMA that often never comes, a decimated transportation system, and hazardous materials abundant.”

About one million Puerto Ricans were still without drinking water as of Thursday. According to status.pr, a website that is maintained by Puerto Rican officials with daily updates on the recovery, 80 percent of the island was still without electricity as Trump was speaking. More than half of the island’s cell phone towers are still not working and more than 4,000 people are still living in shelters.

FEMA has distributed about 23 million liters of water throughout the island—accounting for only about nine percent of Puerto Rico’s drinking water needs. Forced to drink from rivers, many on the island are being exposed to harmful bacteria and toxic chemicals.

The president put Rossello on the spot after grading himself, asking, “Did we do a great job?” The governor declined to give him a rating. He carefully thanked the administration for sending relief, while emphasizing that the island needs the same efforts that were afforded to Texas after Hurricane Harvey. “We need equal treatment, we need all the resources we can get.”

According to Castillo, “the lasting image of this administration may well be Puerto Ricans having to drink contaminated water from polluted streams, putting their health in serious danger, while waiting for timely, appropriate federal aid to millions of U.S. citizens.”

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Promoting Renewable Future, Solar Companies and Nonprofits Rush to Puerto Rico

Several groups and companies have launched initiatives to aid the storm-ravaged island’s recovery and its long-term resilience

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-13-2017

Tech leaders and solar companies are coming together to promote rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid with renewable energy technology. (Photo: SolarCity)

As Congress on Thursday approved a $5 billion loan that will further burden the already bankrupt U.S. territory, various solar companies and nonprofits continued working together to offer aid to the storm-ravaged island while also promoting a more sustainable future and resilient energy system.

On Thursday, the nonprofit Empowered By Light and Sunrun—the nation’s largest residential solar company—partnered with local leaders to install a 4kW solar array with battery storage at the Barrio Obrero fire station in San Juan. A second system will be installed at another fire station on Friday. Continue reading

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While Trump Stokes Division, Warnings Against Ignoring Ongoing Crisis in Puerto Rico

“The fact that within the last 48hrs Trump has made taking a knee for the anthem more important than the lives in Puerto Rico makes me so sad.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-24-2017

Photo: @BamaStephen/Twitter

“No matter what crazy stuff Trump is up to now let’s keep in mind Puerto Rico really needs our attention and help.”

Those are the words of Mark Ruffalo this weekend as the actor and social justice activist echoed the concerns of many that the president’s incendiary comments over recent days are serving to distract people from the severe crisis in the U.S. island territory, where power remains out for much of the island and residents are growing increasingly worried over the scale of the damage left by Hurricane Maria. Continue reading

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Florida Now Spraying Neurotoxic Pesticide Banned in Other Countries to Combat Zika

By Claire Bernish. Published 8-7-2016 by The Free Thought Project

Areas of Miami, Florida, are now being sprayed with the insecticide naled in an attempt to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito — carrier of the zika virus. Naled, a potent neurotoxin that kills mosquitoes on contact, is perfectly safe, or so the Environmental Protection Agency insists, despite Puerto Rico’s rejection of its use to combat the spread of zika there — due to concerns about its safety.

To keep naled airborne where it would be most effective, the agent is sprayed in very fine aerosol droplets — about two tablespoons can be dispersed to cover an area the equivalent of two football fields, a local CBS affiliate reported. Continue reading

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Supreme Court Renders Puerto Rico ‘Powerless’ in the Face of Austerity

‘To survive and thrive, Puerto Rico needs flexibility—not austerity.’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-13-2016

"The government should not have to wait for possible congressional action to avert the consequences of unreliable electricity, transportation and safe water," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the dissenting opinion. (Photo: Alex/flickr/cc)

“The government should not have to wait for possible congressional action to avert the consequences of unreliable electricity, transportation and safe water,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in the dissenting opinion. (Photo: Alex/flickr/cc)

Confirming for one Puerto Rican politician “that the island’s current territorial status has evolved into the worst of both worlds,” the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that U.S. bankruptcy code bars Puerto Rico from restructuring more than $20 billion of its $72 billion debt.

The 5-2 decision (pdf) “struck down a Puerto Rico law that would have let its public utilities restructure their debt over the objection of creditors, leaving it to Congress to help the island resolve its fiscal crisis,” Bloomberg reportsContinue reading

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