Things appear to be getting worse by the day in Puerto Rico. Of course, if you weren’t on the island you wouldn’t know that, given that the media has pretty much forgotten about this massive humanitarian crisis. Wednesday marked 112 days since Hurricane Maria made landfall and, to date, only 55 percent of the island has power restored. Food, gas and medical supplies remain scarce with no answers as to when full power and services will be restored. Then, on Tuesday, a tsunami warning was issued for Puerto Rico after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the Caribbean Sea. Thankfully, the warning was cancelled shortly thereafter but the island remains in desperate need.
This week, yet another blow was dealt the people of the island when the police chief resigned amid controversy and an increase in the murder rate.
Puerto Rico's first female police chief resigned Monday amid a spike in killings while thousands of officers continue to call in sick to protest the lack of overtime pay.
The island's governor said retired military officer Michelle Hernandez was stepping down after one year of overseeing one of the largest police departments under U.S. jurisdiction. [...]
Puerto Rico had recorded 23 killings as of Sunday, compared with nine in the same period last year, police spokesman Carlos Rivera told The Associated Press. This year's killings have occurred across the U.S. territory and include a triple homicide in recent days, he said.
This is downright frightening. For almost four months, Puerto Ricans have been without stable sources of food, electricity, water and medicine. Schools are operating without power. There is a mass exodus of people leaving the island. We still don’t know exactly how many people have died because of the storm and the government says it’s 64, though other data suggests it’s over 1,000. And now police officers are not showing up to work because they aren’t being paid and there is a spike in killings. This is the stuff of fictional dystopian movies and books—except it’s real life and Puerto Ricans are suffering and dying.
More than 2,700 officers have been absent daily on average in recent weeks, compared with the usual average of about 600 daily absences. It is unclear whether that number has changed in recent days and whether any action has been taken against officers who have called in sick. [...]
Officers have been demanding millions of dollars owed for working overtime after hurricanes Irma and Maria, with some working seven days a week, 12 to 15 hours a day.
A couple of weeks ago, Hernandez estimated the government owed officers an additional $35 million in overtime pay, but said the department was still tallying attendance sheets to determine the exact amount.
As grave as this situation is, there still aren’t any straight answers. No one knows what’s happening—from how much pay police officers are owed to whether or not the police chief quit or was asked to resign.
What will it take to ensure the safety and well-being of Puerto Ricans? Because at this point, every single system and structure that should be ensuring public safety and disaster recovery is failing them miserably. They are being left to die by negligent local and federal governments all while a moronic and racist president and his administration stand by and watch. This should fill every American with shame and outrage but, mostly, we should feel motivated to act. If the government won’t do anything to help, we must.
Here’s a list of organizations you can donate to:
Water for Puerto Rico
Together Puerto Rico
Campaigns offering support to Puerto Rico (as compiled by PBS)