President Donald Trump lavished praise on himself when commenting on the federal response to the disaster that has overwhelmed Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. “I would give myself a 10,” he said on Oct. 19. “I think we’ve done a really great job,” he added, as Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello sat silently by his side in the Oval Office.
This was just two weeks after Trump’s visit to the island, where he lobbed rolls of paper towels at hurricane survivors. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, appearing on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, responded, “If it’s a 10 out of 100, I agree, because it’s still a failing grade.”
Like the mayor, few think Trump has responded effectively. “We can’t fail to note the dissimilar urgency and priority given to the emergency response in Puerto Rico, compared to the U.S. states affected by hurricanes in recent months,” Leilani Farha, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to housing, said, comparing post-hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Florida in a damning report issued on Monday by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“Democracy Now!” traveled to Puerto Rico last weekend to see the devastation firsthand. Well into the second month after Hurricane Maria hit, the island remains dark. By official estimates, almost two-thirds of the island is without electricity. In the meantime, the 3.5 million U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico struggle to obtain the basic essentials of life, as thousands leave the island for the mainland U.S., perhaps never to return.
Disaster capitalists are heading to Puerto Rico & the US Virgin Islands. Eloquently articulated by journalist Naomi Klein in her book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” disasters both natural and human-made are increasingly being exploited by for-profit corporations and so-called free-market ideologues to reshape vast swaths of impacted societies, undermining social welfare systems, privatizing public utilities, busting unions and making obscene profits rebuilding.
Post-hurricane Puerto Rico is shaping up to be a textbook case of the shock doctrine.
“I wish I had never been introduced to that term,” Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told us at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum, the large sports arena in San Juan, where she and her staff have been living since the hurricane. “Using chaos to strip employees of their bargaining rights, rights that took 40, 50 years for the unions to be able to determine … it just means taking advantage of people when they are in a life-or-death situation. It’s an absolute mistreatment of human rights.
It means that the strongest really feed off the weakest, until all that’s left is the carcass.”