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Here's what Puerto Rico has endured over the past two years: a devastating hurricane; an incompetent and corrupt local government; a bungled and halfhearted emergency response from the federal government. Now, even as hurricane recovery remains incomplete, a new natural disaster: a 6.4-magnitude earthquake followed by powerful aftershocks.

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced has declared a state of emergency, and President Donald Trump followed suit, approving a declaration that will allow for $5 million to be spent on emergency services in response to the earthquake. But that hardly compensates for the shoddy way his administration has treated Puerto Rico. Not only did Trump seem to make light of the suffering after Hurricane Maria--who can forget him tossing rolls of paper towels to a crowd in Puerto Rico or how he labeled the revised, high death toll a conspiracy by Democrats--but he also refused to provide the resources that were so urgently needed.

According to a study last year, "the federal government responded on a larger scale and much more quickly across measures of federal money and staffing to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in Texas and Florida, compared with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The variation in the responses was not commensurate with storm severity and need after landfall in the case of Puerto Rico compared with Texas and Florida."

Unlike Florida and Texas--or any other state--Puerto Rico doesn't have elected representatives in Congress who can fight for its interests. That--and the fact Puerto Rico is not a key battleground in presidential elections--has made it all too easy for Trump to treat Puerto Ricans like second-class citizens rather than Americans with all the rights of citizenship.

Still, it is worth remembering that many Puerto Ricans were forced to leave the island after Maria and are now living--and will be able to vote--in swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania. Presumably many of them will remember how the island has been treated.

Editorial on 01/14/2020

Print Headline: Another blow to Puerto Rico

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