Natural and financial catastrophes in Puerto Rico

From Puerto Rico, the women's organization Cohitre also describes a “colonial condition that imposes agendas foreign to our people”. In September 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island, destroying 70,000 homes and collapsing its electric network (still not completely restored), its transport system, hospitals and fuel and food supplies.

The catastrophic effects are sharpened by the absence of political powers -the island is a US 'unincorporated territory' since 1898- and the control of its finances by a US-imposed Fiscal Control Board, due to its indebtedness. “The diversion of funds to pay off public debt, adjustment plans, austerity measures, the reduction of the public sector and privatization has compromised the government's capacity to respond to the crisis” while “the response of the US government is slow, erratic and centralized” and “the US Congress has shown no rush to provide aid to Puerto Rico, given the debate over corruption and how to manage the funds”.

It is estimated that over a hundred thousand people (3% of the population) have migrated following the hurricanes, either for health reasons (seeking appropriate medical services), for reasons of education (closed schools) or looking for a job (due to economic collapse and job loss) and “especially due to a policy from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that stimulates migration".

Civil society groups demand the elimination of the Fiscal Control Board that undermines democracy and that “the payment to creditors not be placed above the payment of the ordinary expenses of the government that directly benefit the population, which causes a problem of human rights”.

Source: Puerto Rico Report 2018.