Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Disaster In Puerto Rico Continues

The government's own report on FEMA's obscenely bad response in Puerto Rico is brutal, and it proves just how inept the Trump regime handled the aftermath of Hurricane Maria ten months ago.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency experienced personnel shortages, was caught with a critical lack of aid supplies, had trouble coordinating logistics and found itself struggling to do the work of the territorial government while responding to Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico last September, according to an official after-action report released late Thursday.

Despite repeated Trump administration efforts to play down federal failures in responding to a humanitarian crisis on the island territory, the new report is a public acknowledgment of systemic failures during what was one of the most destructive hurricane seasons — and costliest disaster responses — in the nation’s history.

[Read the FEMA after-action report]

It shows that responses to Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida taxed the agency and left it understaffed and out of position for the catastrophe that unfolded in Puerto Rico, where millions of U.S. citizens suffered through widespread communication blackouts, massive infrastructure failures and lengthy power outages.

FEMA officials said Thursday that the responses to back-to-back mainland hurricanes sapped federal disaster resources and left an extraordinarily short window to prepare and build up for Maria. Once Maria hit, they said, they had difficulties with logistics and had a hard time coordinating with local officials in Puerto Rico, who were themselves victims of the storm.

The sobering report runs counter to the White House narrative that President Trump presented at the time, when he praised FEMA’s performance and characterized the devastation on the island as not being “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”

The three major hurricanes that made landfall on U.S. soil — along with wildfires and other natural disasters — ravaged the country and its territories in 2017, affecting nearly 50 million Americans and U.S. nationals spread across the South, West and Caribbean. The disasters cost nearly $300 billion, according to FEMA estimates

It was a critical failure across the board, one that cost thousands of lives.  It should have ended the Trump regime as US citizens were killed by government malpractice, but then again, America itself isn't exactly working for the people these days, and especially not for the people of Puerto Rico. 

Someone's head has to roll for this, and increasingly it looks like the political fallout will land on the heads of politicians in San Juan and not Washington as suddenly the DoJ is very interested in the island's government finances.

A mayor and two former government officials in Puerto Rico face public corruption charges in separate cases that involve a total of $8 million in federal and local funds, authorities said Thursday. The suspects are the mayor of the southwest town of Sabana Grande and the former directors of finance for the northern town of Toa Baja, which has struggled to pay its employees amid an 11-year recession.

U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez told reporters that the former officials from Toa Baja are accused of using nearly $5 million worth of federal funds to pay the town's public employees and municipal contractors.

"Not only is that illegal, it's immoral," she said.

Officials said former finance director Victor Cruz Quintero deposited some $2.5 million worth of funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development into the town's general and payroll accounts in October 2014.

He also is accused of making similar deposits and transfers of more than $1.75 million in funds from HUD and the Department of Health and Human Services from September 2014 to February 2016.

Toa Baja's former interim finance director, Angel Roberto Santos Garcia, is accused of making similar transactions worth $650,000 using funds from those two federal agencies.

It was not immediately clear if Cruz and Santos had attorneys.

Rodriguez said the investigation into alleged corruption in Toa Baja is ongoing because officials believe other people are involved.

Puerto Rico's finances were a mess long before Hurricanes Maria and Trump killed thousands, and there will have to be a reckoning for it all, but let's not forget that this level of sheer dereliction of duty was monstrous, and wouldn't be tolerated in any US state or by its voters.  In a territory that has no real political representation however, well...

We see how that went.

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