FEMA: It’s ‘Not Our Job’ To Deliver Food And Water Relief To Puerto Rico

If you’re sitting at your computer, take a deep breath. If you’re reading this on your phone, have a seat. Everything you think you know about how bad the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico has been is about to get a whole lot worse.

On Rachel Maddow’s show Monday night, she discussed a small town in the mountains of Puerto Rico called Aibonito, roughly one and a half hours from the capital city of San Juan. If it seems like you’re getting a geography lesson lately, that’s good — even if it is because of listening to Trump trash talk mayors and citizens or watching him pelt churchgoers with rolls of paper towels.

Showing video taken from a moving vehicle, Rachel describes the roads from the capital to Aibonito: Clear. Unblocked. As the cameras travel with the MSNBC team, you hear the point of Rachel’s report, which is that after almost three weeks since the storm, FEMA still has not brought relief to the mountain town. And to hear them tell it, there’s a reason.

It’s not their job.

FEMA still has not delivered food or water to the completely accessible town. And make no mistake, FEMA knows that Aibonito is accessible at this point, because they’ve been there three times. All three times, FEMA was on the scene to “help residents fill out paperwork” to apply for aid. Let’s drag that acronym out into what it stands for: The Federal Emergency Management Agency. Heading to a remote mountain town that’s been waiting three weeks for food and water to assist the pueblo in asking for help doesn’t sound like anyone is managing any emergencies to me.

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Rachel first ran a profile on Aibonito on Friday, which is how she knew that FEMA had been there three times. After she ran that report, FEMA contacted her show, desperate to let the public know that they had once again made the literally unimpeded journey to Aibonito on Saturday, this time to speak to the mayor and file a report on the needs of the community. Still no food or water in their undoubtedly spacious trucks.

The death toll in Puerto Rico has more than doubled since Donald Trump told the residents there that they should be grateful so few had died.

But the part that will piss you off is the comparison between how the Trump administration has handled this “emergency management” as opposed to the emergencies in Texas and Florida. Shipping restrictions are back in place in Puerto Rico, making what little aid is coming hard to receive. The administration initially refused to lift a restriction on using food stamps to purchase ready-to-eat food, despite the grocery stores on the island being mostly closed until within the last week, and despite those stores that have reopened jacking up their prices. That’s not how it went in the mainland US, where the “white people’s hurricanes” saw victims able to use their food stamps to purchase McDonald’s on day one, and where the federal government stepped in to help municipalities fight price gouging.

There can be little doubt that the “emergency management” in Puerto Rico has suffered from a lack of compassion, and that erasing everything that puertorriqueños have in common with Texans and Floridians — American citizenship, basic humanity, dire need — what’s left is that they are a Spanish-speaking people. They are brown and seem foreign. They are underdogs, with a flag that isn’t the same shape as the flags of the individual United States that fly at the same height: Just below the American flag.


Featured image via Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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