By Bernie Sanders
This piece originally appeared in El Nuevo Dia
Puerto Rico has been devastated. The island lacks electricity, food, water and gas. People are unable to get the health care they need, and physicians warn of an impending health care crisis.
As American citizens, Puerto Ricans are entitled to the same kind of response as the people of Texas, Florida, Vermont and other regions of the country that have been hit hard by natural disasters. President Donald Trump should be focusing his energies on helping to rebuild Puerto Rico, not attacking San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
No President Trump, Puerto Rico hasn’t “thrown our budget way out of whack.” When Congress just passed an almost $700 billion defense bill and is now debating a Republican proposal to give up to $5 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations, we have the resources to provide the help to Puerto Rico that we always do when states and communities are hard hit by hurricanes.
Like many Americans, I am deeply disturbed by the inadequate federal response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, which rightfully has been described as “apocalyptic.” In the days following the storm, I spoke with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, and the picture she painted was quite sobering.
Short term, working with local authorities, we have got to make sure that every community in Puerto Rico gets the food, water, fuel and other basic necessities that they desperately need. Hospitals and schools must be reopened. Telephone service and electricity must be restored in every community. And decent housing has got to be found for all.
Longer term, Congress must work with the people of Puerto Rico to transform its expensive, antiquated and inadequate energy system. Puerto Ricans pay twice as much for electricity as most people on the mainland and service has been much less reliable. As an island with extraordinary solar and wind capabilities, a new distributed energy system must be built which is based on sustainable energy, not expensive fossil fuel. Not only will this provide less expensive electricity, but it will enable Puerto Rico to better withstand future natural disasters.
Further, it is no secret that the island has long struggled with unsustainable debt, sky-high unemployment and high levels of poverty. Let me be very clear in saying that the 2016 PROMESA law that treats the island like a colony is not the answer. The people of Puerto Rico, through their own elected officials, should be determining future of the island, not a seven-member control board. Wall Street vulture funds should not be allowed to make huge profits off the misery of the Puerto Rican people.
Now is the time for all Americans to stand together. Now is the time for President Trump to stop his insulting tweets. Now is the time to rebuild Puerto Rico.