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Puerto Rico Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz in the legislative body's newly-opened offices in Washington D.C. on April 18, 2018. EFE/Lenin Nolly
Puerto Rico Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz in the legislative body's newly-opened offices in Washington D.C. on April 18, 2018. EFE/Lenin Nolly

Puerto Rico: Maria showed a terrible thing about being a colony

More than six months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, tens of thousands of the island's residents remain without electricity.

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The president of the Puerto Rican Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz, said in an interview with EFE that the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria has shown the "terrible thing" about being in a "colonial situation" vis-a-vis the U.S.

"Hurricane Maria has demonstrated the terrible thing about being a colony," Rivera Schatz said, adding that opting for independence or moving toward becoming the 51st U.S. state are two "dignified" options that the island has, but remaining in a "colonial situation" will no longer do.

In this regard, he said that "what is not tenable is being a colony where others decide for us, (where) they want to replace an elected government. We're first when they cut funding and last when they distribute it."

Rivera Schatz said that the ongoing lack of electricity for tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans is also the consequence of the island's status as a U.S. commonwealth, remarking that "It's untenable that after so many months there can be an American citizen on American soil lacking a basic service like electricity."

The Senate chief spoke with EFE in the legislative body's recently inaugurated offices in Washington D.C.

"An American citizen (i.e. a Puerto Rican) loses rights due to his location. He doesn't have what he is due and has to move. That should be a shameful thing for the U.S. government," said the conservative politician regarding forced migration from the island in recent years.

Regarding the needs for rebuilding on the island, Rivera Schatz emphasized that "other countries have the necessary tools to get ahead, but Puerto Rico doesn't."

The New Yorker warned about the island's current vulnerability in the coming hurricane season after the effects of Maria, noting that this is "a problem that has to be attended to" but adding that "delay" in distributing federal aid "is creating a crisis in Puerto Rico" and saying it could negatively affect the island's preparedness to face another storm.

"Sure, because if there's another incident of that category, even a less serious one, it's going to aggravate the circumstances the (island) is experiencing," he said.

He also said that Puerto Rico "is very socially and economically fragile" right now, especially "in terms of infrastructure" after Maria devastated the island last September.

He also said that if Puerto Ricans living on the island were able to vote for president and "have two senators and congressmen in the Capitol," the problems with the distribution of aid would not be under discussion.

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