Puerto Rico is suffering a humanitarian crisis since category 4 Hurricane Maria directly hit the Caribbean island on Wednesday, September 20. Over a week later, the catastrophic event, there’s still no power on the island except for generators dedicated to some high-priority locations, such as hospitals— as a matter of fact, only 4% of Puerto Rico has electricity. This also means that Puerto Ricans don’t have access to water, communications —there’s no phone service—, and have limited access to food or fuel, according to Vox. “Make no mistake — this is a humanitarian disaster involving 3.4 million US citizens,” Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló stated on Monday.
More media coverage and a faster and better response to the disaster seem to have been hindered by widespread confusion about Puerto Rico’s relationship to the United States and the severity of the island’s situation after the catastrophe.
According to Vox, half (50%) of Americans don’t know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. In 1917, Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones-Shafroth Act which allows Puerto Rican citizens vote in presidential primaries, travel in and out of the U.S. without a passport and are protected by the Bill of Rights which protects every person born in the U.S. As part of the U.S, Puerto Rico is entitled to the same government recovery response as any state.
Hurricane Maria was the fifth-strongest storm ever to hit the U.S., and the strongest storm to hit the island in 80 years. “The devastation is vast,” Gov. Rosselló said, “Our infrastructure and energy distribution systems suffered great damages.”
According to ABC News, President Trump announced Tuesday he “will make his first visit to the island next week to survey the damage after critics —both Democrats and Republicans— accused his response to the devastation there of being lackluster.” Trump stated on Tuesday “This is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it's a big ocean; it's a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job.”