[OP-ED]: Trump in No Hurry to Help Puerto Rico
The man took his sweet time, but finally, after resisting for one full week, and just in time for his visit to Puerto Rico on Tuesday, President Trump temporarily lifted the obsolete century-old Jones Act allowing the island, devastated by two hurricanes, to begin receiving ships with desperately needed aid, not only from the U.S., but from other countries as well.
What kindness! Coming from the man in the White House, not known for his magnanimity, such action made headlines in every major media outlet on Thursday. It even elicited cries of ¡Gracias Mr. Trump! from some of the desperate people on the island, and from others who should know better, but are always falling over each other to celebrate anything –no matter what--coming from Washington.
Yet, don’t get too emotional about Trump’s generosity. Reading the fine print is sure to dampen your enthusiasm.
Even though he did not waste any time in suspending the law after Texas and Florida were ravaged by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, it took Trump seven long days to finally do the same for Puerto Rico, cruelly prolonging the suffering of the 3.4 million U.S. citizens who inhabit the island and who have been without power, and many without clean drinking water since hurricane María devastated the country.
And here is the clincher: Trump lifted the Jones Act, but just for 10 days. Yes, 10 days, even though Puerto Rico is suffering the worst crisis its people have ever known, with food and potable water in short supply, thousands of people left homeless, a severely damaged infrastructure, and large parts of the country with no power or phone service. And Puerto Ricans are supposed to be grateful because the colonial master, in his infinite kindness, is throwing a few crumbs their way? C’mon, this has to be a bad joke.
The Jones Act, a federal law that limits shipping by foreign vessels, “has had the unintended consequence of making it twice as expensive to ship things from the US mainland to Puerto Rico as it is to ship from any other foreign port in the world,” has said Republican senator John McCain. How can this outrage be justified?
“It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster,” McCain wrote in a letter to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke. The Arizona senator has introduced a bill to repeal the law, which he has called “archaic and burdensome.” He has also expressed his concern about something that should be obvious: 10 days is a ridiculously short time not enough for the suspension of the law to make a major difference in the terrible Puerto Rican crisis.
As Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan wrote in Facebook, “This is the Trump administration. Granting a mere 10-day reprieve from the Jones Act when recovery will take months costs him nothing politically. No one should be thanking him for succumbing to pressure from the people after refusing to grant the waiver just days ago. He's just preparing for his trip there to say he gave people crumbs when they're starving for bread and expect to receive applause (which he will from governor (Roselló) who will do anything to be liked and accepted by the US).”
No, Trump doesn’t deserve applause or gratitude from the Puerto Rican people that, his denials notwithstanding, he has treated not as true U.S. citizens, but as what, like it or not, they are: subjects of the oldest colony in the world.
More than ever, it’s clear that independence is the only option for the future of Puerto Rico.