Hundreds Protest in La Fortaleza Against Naled
SAN JUAN — Hundreds protested on Thursday in La Fortaleza urging the Alejandro García Padilla administration to desist in using the insecticide Naled as a measure to fight the mosquito-borne Zika virus on the island.
“It is time for [García Padilla] to make a decision that favors the people of Puerto Rico, against poisoning the country and using it as a test balloon,” San Juan Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told Caribbean Business, pointing to experts’ advice against the use of Naled.
She highlighted the damage being inflicted to local businesses and the tourism industry. “Imagine that you are in a hotel, and you have to tell guests ‘for the next three days, we recommend you don’t go out, because you will be sprayed from the air with a toxic substance that is prohibited in Europe.’ This is not good for business, it doesn’t jumpstart the economy,” Yulín told this newspaper.
Organized by the United Front Against Fumigation, protesters marched from Plaza Colón in Old San Juan to La Fortaleza demanding Gov. García Padilla to choose against the use of Naled due to the negative effects it could have over the environment and Puerto Rico people’s health.
Meanwhile, La Fortaleza stated a decision has yet to be made, and said it is still waiting to hear a response from federal agencies over certain questions that were referred to them by the García Padilla administration.
“To use Naled, [the federal government] has to convince me, and they haven’t done it yet,” García Padilla said earlier Thursday.
In addition to the San Juan mayor, other politicians participated of the event such as PDP Reps. Manuel Natal and Luis R. Torres, and Sen. Rossana López. Also present was Puerto Rico Workers Party’s gubernatorial candidate Rafael Bernabe.
“We are seeking that there is transparency and information. That the government listens to the people and give them participation, no matter what the topic is, if it affects the people. That has lacked in this process,” Bernabe told Caribbean Business.
He also stressed there is significant concerns over the effectiveness of Naled and the risks it brings to the table when used as planned. “There are other alternatives, not toxic, to achieve the objective [of fighting Zika and the aedes aegypti mosquito],” Bernabe added.
When asked by Caribbean Business who has the final say on the matter, whether the García Padilla administration or the federal government, both Bernabe and Yulín said it corresponds to the local government.
Could Promesa’s fiscal oversight board implement the use of Naled if García Padilla determines against its use? “Of course. That’s the colony,” Yulín said.
For his part, Bernabe believes that the board would not be looking into matters such as the use of Naled. “But it is indeed an undemocratic structure that would be pushing for decisions over pensions, employment, economic policy, public services, privatization and the construction of some projects that could harm the environment,” he added.
On Thursday, the federal Health & Human Services Department (HHS) stated that the shipments of Naled and Bti —a larvicide that is also part of plans to fight the aedes aegyptii mosquito on the island — arrived to Puerto Rico on Wednesday, July 20, and remain “stored and secured,” although it didn’t disclose its location.
La Fortaleza vows it didn’t have information of the shipments’ arrivals, and is currently evaluating legal action against the federal authorities’ decision to deliver the insecticide to the island.
The HHS added that it would not conduct any aerial spraying of Naled without the local government’s authorization, and that the shipment was made so it was immediately available if the García Padilla administration decides to go ahead with the plan.