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Bree’s beat

Problems in paradise

Bree researches each story for her column, heartbeat by heartbeat. (Photograph by Ruth Flores-Orellana)

Bree researches each story for her column, heartbeat by heartbeat. (Photograph by Ruth Flores-Orellana)

By Bree Bailey

Known to many as a beautiful island getaway, Puerto Rico is home to gorgeous landscapes and kind-hearted people. Today, this scenic island is facing its most devastating catastrophe in over a century. Since Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20, Puerto Ricans have been fighting for survival.

“Only 47 percent of the island’s water customers have access to potable water and 95 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power,” The office of Puerto Rico’s governor said. Because of this, the islanders are experiencing a new sense of unity, yet at the same time, a greater spirit of fear.

“Basically, we’re drinking wine and talking about how we can best arm ourselves and protect our families,” said paramedic Jose Camacho Santiago, quoted in the NY Times.

The Puerto Rico Police Department revealed this week that 18 homicides occurred on the island during the first 10 days after the storm.

Since Puerto Rico is an American territory, and home to 3.4 million U.S. citizens, why does it appear the federal government is reacting so slowly? Due to the Posse Comitatus Act that applies to all American territories, the federal military’s action is limited only to requests made by Puerto Rico. Many are criticizing the apparent lack of care government officials have invested toward this crisis.

However, these officials argue Puerto Rico has not asked for the help. Recently, a disagreement between President Trump and Puerto Rican mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz resulted in a face-to-face meeting on the island. During this visit, Trump was able to witness firsthand what horrors the island is facing.

“It’s been amazing what’s been done in a very short period of time on Puerto Rico,” the president said when he returned to the states.

However, former Puerto Rico governor Alejandro García Padilla warned unless the island is assisted soon, many thousands could die. Trump, Cruz and several other leaders all claim to be giving their best efforts in helping the citizens of Puerto Rico get back on their feet.

Ten thousand federal workers from federal departments and agencies are on the island. According to FEMA, it has reached all of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities and delivered a million meals, along with 2 million liters of water, to 11 distribution centers on the island. Nonetheless, many still remain unhelped.

“The real test of leadership is now what do we do about it now that it’s clear that Puerto Rico is going to need help for a long time,” Lt. Gen. P.K. “Ken” Keen, a three-star general who commanded the U.S. military effort in Haiti, said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is currently working to provide the necessary help to Puerto Ricans through distributing emergency kits. Kits provide the receiver with supplies such as water purification tablets, a water bucket with a lid, water containers, soap, toothpaste, detergent and sanitary pads. These supplies will help prevent the spread of disease, which often results from catastrophes such as this. To join them in helping our fellow Americans, you can visit their website.

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