Since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico several months ago, one of the major talking points from the Left has been that the Trump administration has refused to send relief aid to the U.S. territory. Indeed, some local officials have become so obsessed with “resisting” Trump that the federal government is refusing to work with them anymore. But a recent discovery shows that what’s really going on in Puerto Rico is far worse than just political posturing.
Back in October, we reported that local officials on the island were only distributing relief supplies to their political allies, leaving everyone else without the aid they were promised.
According to FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio, “People call us and tell us [about] some misappropriation of some goods and supplies by supposedly politicians, not necessarily mayors, but people that work for the mayors in certain towns.”
Osorio further explained, “They’re supposedly withholding these goods and these supplies and instead of handing them out to people who really need them, [there are claims] that [local officials] are assigning them to their buddies first–people that have voted for them or people that contributed to their campaigns or what not.”
That was bad enough, but a recent discovery by FEMA agents shows that the local government has been hoarding relief supplies in a warehouse rather than distributing them as required.
According to The Intercept, FEMA agents entered a public utility warehouse and found a massive store of rebuilding materials. The supplies, bought with taxpayer money, were supposed to be distributed to contractors to aid in the rebuilding process, but they were kept in the warehouse by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Who knows when these supplies arrived on the island.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed the report to The Intercept. Armed FEMA agents toured the facility with PREPA, and immediately started distributing the supplies to contractors.
Asked if the federal officers were armed when they entered the warehouse, USACE spokesperson Luciano Vera said they were indeed accompanied by security detail and quickly began distributing the material after seizing it. Vera declined to say whether there was a confrontation at the entrance, saying only that PREPA officials ultimately toured the warehouse along with the feds.
Utility workers from the mainland U.S. have traveled down to Puerto Rico to aid in rebuilding the island’s infrastructure, but were often unable to complete critical work because of a lack of necessary resources and supplies.
A security contractor who recently returned from Puerto Rico told The Intercept that crews of linemen brought down from the U.S. were frustrated about the lack of rebuilding materials, which made it virtually impossible for them to fix downed infrastructure. Paraphrasing conversations with the electric crews he accompanied, the source said one worker told him that “we just sat in the truck and watched a movie because we have nothing to do today. … Around Christmas, a lot of the power workers were saying, ‘We’re going on vacation because we couldn’t do our job because PREPA was making it so difficult.’” The source’s job involved escorting contractors tasked with reconstructing downed power lines; he was deployed on the island for over a month by a subcontractor of Cobra Acquisitions LLC, which in the fall received a $200 million contract with PREPA to repair its grid.
“They didn’t have anything to do or to work on,” he said about many of the linemen with whom he worked. “They had had a bunch of poles but no lines, or any of the stuff that goes on the poles. They were just setting bare poles, getting as far as they could go.”
PREPA has been the island’s only electric provider for decades, and in that time it has been rife with corruption and incompetence. The commission that sets rates is largely made up of political appointees and not those who understand electrical power plants. Much of the infrastructure has fallen into disrepair over the years.
Reforms were attempted in 2014, but any progress made was immediately undone by the new governor, who restored the previous power structure that fostered corruption and terrible service.
What’s the moral of the story here? The supplies have been sent to Puerto Rico by FEMA and other agencies, but local officials have been playing games with the relief resources, either hoarding them or likely doling them out solely to political allies.
So the idea that no relief is being sent is simply a blatant lie. The issue is with local officials who are so tainted with a toxic kind of politicking.
It’s an absolutely reprehensible way to run a government, and those who aided in hoarding FEMA supplies or distributing only to allies belong in prison.
Source : thefederalistpapers.org