We Cannot Ignore Puerto Rico

We Cannot Ignore Puerto Rico February 22, 2018

Out of sight, out of mind.  Evil spreads in the darkness where the light of truth and justice does not shine. When evil is ignored, or worse, forgotten, its power is able to grow; the greater the evil, the greater the harm it will cause.

It has been over five months since Hurricane Maria. Instead of getting the help needed in order to rebuild, the people of Puerto Rico find themselves battling to survive. Those who should be working for their benefit, like the President of the United States, have abandoned them, leaving them not only to fend for themselves, but to become the prey of capitalistic predators seeing their plight as a money-making opportunity. Everything which they need to help rebuild their society is becoming a good to be bought and sold, as Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz indicated in an interview:

So we’re facing a privatization on the energy front. We’re also facing privatization of the educational point. The local government of Puerto Rico has introduced the concept of charter schools and has said that it’s going to privatize schools. It almost seems like the perfect storm for disaster economics or what they call disaster capitalism. Everything seems to be out there for sale, while those essential services, that do more than provide services—they are sort of the equalizers of our society—are all put on sale. Still, the money from FEMA is not coming. The municipalities are facing a dire need of cash in order to continue to provide services and make payroll. For San Juan, the situation is a little better, but we are still in a very delicate financial situation. [1]

Even before Maria, Puerto Rico was suffering from financial ruin because of the predatory nature of capitalism affecting their daily lives; those who helped cause some of the problems are now picking at the wounds; for example, Citigroup, which helped the Puerto Rico Power Authority to go “into the red” now are helping to sell it off to the highest bidder.  Many who are awarded contracts are not reliable, and indeed, only seek them for the money they can gain; once they are shown incapable of doing as they promised, their contracts are rescinded as the people suffer that much longer for someone truly desiring to help them can come and bring the aid needed their society to be restored. Is it any surprise that suicide rates are on the rise in Puerto Rico?

Much of the aid which comes to Puerto Rico comes at a price tag; the debate often lies with how much Puerto Rico should be forced to pay instead of how much aid they need. The power structure, which is needed for the island to rebuild, itself is being established through loans, and even then, the amount is insufficient for their need. It is estimated that around a third of the population survives without power, and there seems to be no known time frame in which that power will be restored.

Millions of Puerto Ricans, living in a territory of the United States, are easily forgotten; Trump gains nothing from them because they have little to no political power, and so it is not surprising he ignores them and their plight, demonstrating why many believe he just does not care what happens to them. At best, for him and his friends, it’s an opportunity to sell out Puerto Rico’s needs to the highest bidder, helping Trump’s business partners make money, but beyond that, he has shown no compassion, no concern for the suffering of people whom he is expected to protect as the President of the United States. The failure is his, but also the failure of the people of the United States who have not made sure the safety and welfare of the people of Puerto Rico are a priority.

Out of sight, out of mind. That’s been the fate of the people of Puerto Rico. Trump, and the people of the United States, have shown truly that the will allow evil to rise and cause great suffering, even among their own territories, so long as it does not immediately affect them. Their selfishness is going to lead to the deaths of many.  It will not stop with Puerto Rico. It will continue to spread. Excuse after excuse will be used to continue to ignore the plight of the suffering poor in the continental United State as that portion of society increases thanks to the class warfare going on by the rich.

St. Salvian saw the same happen around him during the fall of Rome. He said that only a few would speak out and defend the good being squashed by the rich elite. Even the clergy of his time were unable to say what needed to be said as they were too afraid to speak out:

Who gives help to the distressed and those that labor, when even the Lord’s priests do not resist the violence of wicked men?

Either most of them are silent, or, even though they speak, they are like those who are silent, and many do this not from lack of resolution, but, as they think, with considered discretion. They are unwilling to mention the manifest truth because ears of wicked men cannot bear it. They not only free from the truth, but they hate and curse it, and also condemn it in the hostility of their prideful stubbornness. Therefore, even they who can speak are silent while, in the meantime, they spare those very evil men. [2]

We cannot remain silent, for by such silence, evil will spread, causing more and more harm until at last, everything will crumble apart around us and we will face the consequences of our silence. We must learn the lesson of Sodom before it is too late: greed and the lack of charity which follows from it will destroy a society inside out until no one will be able to survive (cf. Ezek. 16:49).

 

[Image=  Homes lay in ruin as seen from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations, Black Hawk during a flyover of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria September 23, 2017. by U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Kris Groganby (170923-H-NI589-0007) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]


[1] https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/san-juan-mayor-decries-disaster-capitalism See also: https://www.democracynow.org/2018/2/19/san_juan_mayor_calls_for_end

 

[2] St. Salvian the Presbyter, “The Governance of God” in The Writings of Salvian the Presbyter. Trans. Jeremiah F. O’Sullivan, PhD (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1962), 135.

 

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