Former gov urges Puerto Rican diaspora to demand Army support
SAN JUAN – Former Puerto Rico Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá called on the island’s diaspora to use their political power to demand that the White House activate the U.S. Army to support stabilization efforts by transporting fuel and water, thus collaborating in the process of reestablishing communications.
“The only one who has the ability, and I told the governor he should request it, is that the U.S. Army come and re-establish communications immediately. And they can establish a logistics network with their trucks, diesel gas and food,” the former governor said.
Acevedo Vilá, who spoke with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Tuesday morning, said Puerto Rico’s physical and human infrastructure is not prepared for an emergency of this magnitude.
“What’s going to produce the humanitarian crisis here is the lack of electric power, and we know there will be no power for many months and that means we will need diesel. During normal times there are probably 100 diesel distribution sites at 100 gas stations. And who was using diesel here? Usually the trucks.
“Now, for the time being, that infrastructure, created to distribute diesel to a limited number of customers, will not be sufficient. Now you need to constantly supply diesel to hospitals, the generators that are powering the aqueduct plants and communications towers, restaurants, government and people to turn on their individual generators,” Acevedo Vilá said.
La Fortleza Chief of Staff William Villafañe admitted that FEMA’s requests for the U.S. Department of Defense to send urgent resources to Puerto Rico to avoid a humanitarian crisis has not had an effective response.
“There are agencies of the federal government that have not responded diligently,” Villafañe said.
When asked which of them in particular, the secretary indicated that “the Department of Defense is responding very slowly.”
“FEMA has taken all appropriate steps to request assistance, but we need the Department of Defense to act more urgently. Puerto Rico has medical and elderly patients in places where there is not the slightest communication with the help areas. We have had to improvise a new aid protocol that I think can alleviate the situation,” he added.
In an interview with Caribbean Business at the State Operations Center, the official said a new protocol of action that supposes that all critical areas of the island lack resources has been established.
“We have a limitation of resources that we could well be using in transporting water and food to the needy areas. We have had to change the protocols. We are now providing supplies intuitively assuming that everyone is in need of help,” he added.
Villafañe said the governor has been in constant communication with FEMA “and they in turn with all federal agencies requesting even more help,” but the response has not been as expected.
On Monday the governor warned Congress and the U.S. Government about the possibility of a humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico as a result of the problems left by Hurricane María on the island five days ago.
The worst atmospheric phenomenon to hit the island in the past 80 years has left floods, landslides, isolated areas, the collapse of the energy system, severe damage to telecommunications, 15,000 evacuees, at least 16 deaths and the rescue of more than 5,500 people.
After the hurricane, the lack of communication and access to certain areas left entire regions without sufficient water, food and fuel; and where there is access to these basic needs there are long lines of desperate citizens. The problems with telecommunications have also resulted in minimal access to cash because people are unable to withdraw from their bank accounts, unable to use credit cards and the ATM system is barely operational in the few open businesses.
Villafañe also urged the President Trump “to finally approve disaster declarations for the remaining 24 municipalities for individual aid.”
“We need a lot of human resources. In the case of electric power, we have applied through FEMA for 300 additional brigades to the Electric Power Authority’s [Prepa] about 250 brigades,” the official said.