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THE CARIBBEAN :
POLICITICAL CORRUPTION :
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President Trump Has No Idea What's Happening in Puerto Rico
President Trump Has No Idea What's Happening in Puerto Rico
By Jeremy Konyndyk
October 6, 2017
A shorter URL for the above link:
Jeremy Konyndyk is a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global
Development and teaches humanitarian field operations at Georgetown
University. He served from 2013 to 2017 as the Obama administration's
director for foreign disaster assistance at USAID, overseeing the U.S.
government's Ebola response in West Africa and other emergencies.
Extraordinary crises are the acid test of presidential leadership.
As I learned while managing the Obama administrations response to the
Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, a presidents personal engagement is
the indispensable variable in ensuring a fully engaged federal crisis
response. In the face of unusually complex and devastating emergencies,
the federal government must transcend business-as-usual, mounting the sort
of massive whole-of-government effort that only the president can fully
mobilize. What the nation has witnessed in Puerto Rico over the past two
weeks sadly demonstrates the inverse: the shortfalls that emerge when a
president leaves a major federal disaster response on autopilot.
President Trumps tactless comments during his visit to San Juan this week
provide a good microcosm of the larger issue. Trump repeatedly downplayed
the severity of the crisis; described his administrations response as
incredible and unbelievable; praised the then-official death toll of 16 as
something Puerto Ricans can be very proud of; told disaster survivors at a
distribution site you dont need the flashlights he was handing to them;
and claimed Puerto Rico had not experienced a real catastrophe, like
Hurricane Katrina. Those remarks followed other comments from Trump and
his senior advisers who have characterized the federal response as
amazing, and a good news story.
As tone-deaf as Trumps self-congratulations were, they reflect a much
deeper problem than just a flawed communications strategy. The presidents
remarks in Puerto Rico were factually wrong in ways that raise serious
questions about whether he grasps the depth of the crisis and whether he
truly has a handle on the federal response.
[Puerto Ricans are going to flee if President Trump doesnt fix hurricane
Consider the death toll. There have been multiple public reports that the
official count (now at least 34) remains artificially low due to the
breakdowns of communications and public administration on the island. The
Center for Investigative Journalism in San Juan has been calling hospitals
to inquire about mortality figures in areas they serve, and the nonprofit
news organization estimates dozens and perhaps hundreds more deaths have
occurred but not yet been documented. Trumps advisers, who include people
with considerable disaster response experience, surely understand the
death toll will rise. Yet the president seemed unaware.
He seemed equally unaware that, his flashlights comment notwithstanding,
93 percent of the island remains without power. He appeared puzzled by the
concept of water purification. While Katrina did have a higher death toll
than the initial count from Maria, the devastation in Puerto Rico is
affecting a population seven times that of pre-storm New Orleans and looks
likely to take far longer to address. It is a real catastrophe, indeed.
There is no way to generously spin the presidents comments; he appears to
have a fundamentally incorrect understanding of the seriousness of this
crisis. Whether he is getting poor information or simply ignoring his
briefings, this is a critical handicap to the federal response effort.
In a more standard disaster event, that might not be such a big deal. The
federal government has seasoned and capable emergency managers who can, in
the face of a typical disaster, mount an effective response even without
close presidential involvement. The federal responses to Hurricane Harvey
in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, for example, were robust and
effective. However, Hurricane Maria like Katrina has spawned a disaster
that is anything but typical.
[My uncle survived Hurricane Maria. Despair over its devastation killed
Puerto Ricos crisis poses major difficulties for disaster responders. The
territorys fragile infrastructure was highly vulnerable and suffered
widespread damage. The logistical challenges of operating in an island
setting make pre-storm evacuation impossible and slow down post-storm
relief. Maria struck at a time when the Federal Emergency Management
Agency is uniquely overstretched, having been on a round-the-clock
operational tempo since Harvey struck Texas a month and a half ago. The
response strains FEMAs normal operating model, which is premised on
capable state and local disaster authorities leading most of the initial
front-line response. FEMA has lacked that in Puerto Rico, in part because
so many local officials were themselves caught in the disaster. So federal
officials have instead had to play much more of a lead role, something
FEMA is not accustomed to doing.
Situations like this, when the normal federal tools are overmatched by the
complexity of the crisis, require attentive, disciplined and creative
presidential leadership. Yet in the critical early days of the response,
Trump focused his attention elsewhere. He tweeted repeatedly about the NFL
immediately after the storm, yet did not hold a high-level meeting on the
Puerto Rico response until six days after Maria made landfall. In the
absence of a sense of urgency from the White House, what emerged from his
administration has been a comparatively modest federal response.
The complete article may be read at the URL above.
Puerto Rico is being treated like a colony after Hurricane Maria
Nature caused Puerto Ricos latest crisis. But politics are making it
Why would anyone in Puerto Rico want a hurricane? Because someone will get
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