February 2020International NewsAmericas2020

Puerto Rico Hit by Earthquakes: Government Holds Back Aid, Prompting Protests

Matheus Bueno
Staff Writer   

It has not been a good start of the decade for the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico, as, in January, the U.S. territory has been the victim of multiple devastating 5.0 magnitude earthquakes. While most southern regions have been affected, the earthquakes have been felt throughout the island, which ended up with no power for almost a week at the beginning of the month. According to NBC News, there has been an average of 1,000 tremors only in the first two weeks of this year.

Thousands of people have been displaced due to severe damage caused by the natural disaster. In the coastal city of Ponce, more than 350 people were moved back into a school that has been serving as a shelter for those who lost their homes due to the tremors. Puerto Rico’s Office of Energy Management estimates that over 8,000 people have sought refuge, mostly, in shelters that are not administered by the government.

The lack of response by the island’s government has sparked a series of protests in the country. People criticize the way the administration of Governor Wanda Vazquez of the New Progressive Party (PNP) and her team have been mismanaging the provision of resources in the most affected areas.

The movements begin intensifying earlier this week after the discovery of abandoned government-operated warehouses filled with unused emergency supplies such as canned food, water, and hygiene artifacts. The governor announced on Monday night that the bureau of investigations will be conducting an investigation regarding such issues. ABC News indicates that Vazquez has also fired three top government officials that have been speculated to be responsible for such issues.

The citizens of Puerto Rico have shown resentment towards the Vazquez administration, and have been questioning the legitimacy of her statements and her position in the government. Vazquez is placed in power after the resignation of governor Ricardo Roselló last summer after massive public protests broke out pressuring his removal from office.

Residents have been gathering in front of the governor’s mansion calling for Vazquez’s resignation and demanding answers on why she does not approach such controversial issues earlier in such a case of emergency. However, Vazquez blames the head of governmental departments and agencies claiming that it was their function to “inform the governor.” Public figures such as singer Rene Perez of the group Calle 13 have been helping to organize demonstrations against the governor after the events of the earthquakes and the discovery of the abandoned warehouses, AP News reported.

President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration that intends to provide assistant for dozens of municipalities affected by natural disasters, including the city of Ponce, which is believed to have caused over $200,000 in damage, Los Angeles Times reported. Officials are still awaiting millions of dollars in federal funds on aid toward hurricane Maria that hit the island in 2017. Meanwhile, the people on the ground have been pulling in much needed resources from donations and fund raisers, supporting each other in a time of crisis.

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