FEMA Administrator Brock Long this week pointed to the politically incorrect and widely ignored reason for the tragedy in Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico.
I’ve been to the island several times, even just on my own, to travel around, try a surfing lesson, and admire its beauty, culture and – this being me – its food. I can report back unequivocally that while Puerto Ricans are technically Americans and should always be treated as Americans, and in so many cases extended personal kindness to me – I traveled the island and met actual Puerto Ricans, not the ones paid to be nice in hotels – their culture, and their infrastructure, resemble Latin America far more than the United States.
I’d add their language except we’ve practically become a Spanish speaking country.
One time when I was there, out in some remote part of the island, I locked my keys in the trunk of my rental care. A group of several young men I had never met spent about a half hour or an hour figuring out how to get into the trunk – the cab was open – and got my keys for me. And then refused any kind of payment. I never forgot it.
But there are obviously deep problems in the culture as well, as reflected in its inability to get its act together economically. But in an era in which the concept of personal responsibility is being eroded into nothing, understanding that Puerto Rico is largely itself to blame for the deaths the resulted from Hurricane Maria is something that must not be said or written. Blaming Trump? That’s something that MUST be said and written.
FEMA chief Long this week told the story none in the media tell: That there was no local infrastructure set up to provide for an island that is directly in the Caribbean’s hurricane alley, and that Trump’s government is providing tens of billions to help the country rebuild and to put it in a position to deal with the next catastrophe.
Long told ABC News:
The effort into Puerto Rico was a huge effort by the federal government. The problem is, is that FEMA was the only responder going in, and that we were the first responder, and that’s not the way the disaster response and recovery works . . . So what are we doing to correct that? We have hired over 1,800 local Puerto Rican citizens to start building a backbone of emergency management at the Commonwealth and local level that did not exist before the storm. We need to shift the narrative about Puerto Rico, to, what are we going to do with the $50 billion that FEMA is going to provide Puerto Rico over the next couple of years and billions more from other federal government agencies?