Feel Lorena De Avila’s pain.
Her parents live in one of the areas hardest hit when Hurricane Maria ravaged the island of Puerto Rico.
Millions of people living in the U.S. Commonwealth survived the hellish storm, and for that they thank God. But now they are in the dark — thirsty, hungry, tired and cut off from most of the world.
De Avila’s parents moved to Puerto Rico after they retired from state jobs. She last spoke to them on Saturday.
“I was calling every five minutes. I was able to get through and they were OK and the house was OK. But I have family throughout the entire island.
“Ninety percent of their small, humble town is destroyed,” De Avila said in an email.
Meanwhile, President Trump is flicking off public criticism that the U.S. government hasn’t responded quickly enough to this humanitarian crisis.
“We’re doing a great job,” Trump said on Tuesday at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
His bar is set pretty low.
There are 3.5 million American citizens living in a disaster area, and the U.S. president hasn’t gone to the island to bring a word of comfort, let alone an apology for the way this relief effort has been handled.
He owes them that much.
Because instead of focusing on how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is handling one of the worst hurricanes ever to hit a U.S. territory, Trump has been obsessed with bullying the NFL over players taking a knee.
Frankly, this president is acting a lot like George W. Bush did when Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005.
Bush’s staff had to convince him to cut his vacation short and deal with the crisis, prompting hip-hop star Kanye West to declare, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
Instead of showing empathy for Puerto Rico, Trump used the crisis to point out its “massive” debt.
U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) spoke on the House floor about the unfolding crisis on Tuesday.
“We need all hands on deck and to make rescuing Puerto Rico our number one priority. Immediate needs must be met — fresh water, food, medicine, shelter and fuel,” he said.
As scarce resources dwindle, De Avila fears that things could turn ugly.
“My stepmother was prepared and her generator is almost empty and they are not able to find propane. So the poor people in the rural community, their generators must be empty,” she said.
La Casa Puertorriquena, the group that organizes the annual Puerto Rican Parade, is heading up a relief effort. But the group had to stop accepting donations on Wednesday because they have no way to get the donations to Puerto Rico.
“Our location is packed. But we can’t get clearance to get the donations there. We have not gotten the support of major airlines or companies or chartered boats. We are asking anybody who has access to a plane and clearance to go to Puerto Rico to help us,” said former Ald. Vilma Colom (35th).
Colom, who is with the National Congress of Puerto Rican Women, and the Puerto Rican Parade Committee, broke down in tears.
“We’ve got so much and we can’t get it there. It is so amazing. We are American citizens and we aren’t getting the help we need,” she said.
Puerto Rico is under the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The Act requires goods shipped between U.S. ports to be carried out by American-owned and operated ships.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Trump administration was still “weighing” whether it would grant a waiver.
“This is just not a priority for our president,” De Avila lamented.
“I am asking you to ask your readers to contact our elected officials and ask: Where is the relief for these citizens of the United States?” she said.
I feel Lorena De Avila’s pain.
I don’t understand why the Trump administration doesn’t.
For more information, please contact Vilma Colom at 773-405-3535.