Though the devastation in Puerto Rico has faded to the background somewhat in recent days, the region is not nearly out of the woods. According to data reported by FEMA on Wednesday only half of the island has access to drinking water and only 5% has electricity (recent numbers reported by a status site put up by the PR Governors Office has electricity at 9.2% now). It’s absolutely crucial to keep these numbers in the conversation so the public is aware of the ongoing issues Puerto Rico are facing. As attention fades so does activism, aid and accountability.
Curiously, as the Washington Post reported, FEMA deleted this information from their website yesterday. William Booher, a FEMA spokesman told the Post that the deleted data was still being listed on the aforementioned website of the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló. The site reporting the data is not a known destination for anyone outside of Puerto Rico. In other words, they’re trying to hide the numbers; they’re trying to push this story to the sidelines.
As the Post pointed out, the only information left on the FEMA site lauds the government’s actions by listing their accomplishments thus far. They are attempting to swing the narrative by deifying the federal response and erasing the harsh reality of the situation. FEMA has offered no rationale for deleting the info because the rationale is obvious: they don’t want these numbers readily accessible by the public. They want to continue to move at the pace they believe is sufficient and they don’t want the pesky public weighing in with their thoughts.
With all that is going on between North Korea, the shooting in Las Vegas, tax reform, DACA, health care and whatever Tweet the president is set to unleash on the public next, the rebuilding process in Puerto Rico is a prime candidate to take a back seat.
Don’t let it.
Keep checking status.pr and keep raising awareness, because now is the time when a truly spectacular failure can occur. Now is the time where resources can be diverted, and disaster capitalism (a term coined by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine) can take over and turn a catastrophe into a corporate free-for-all that laces the pockets of opportunistic CEOs. Never underestimate the federal government’s ability to exploit a disaster via privatization; it happens time and time again. Elements of the recovery and rebuilding efforts will almost certainly be privatized and outsourced to U.S. corporations, and Puerto Rico will be worse off for it.
We need to keep paying attention in order to hold those in power accountable. Don’t let FEMA erase the problems of Puerto Rico.
Written by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.