Puerto Rico is a mess. But it was a mess before Hurricane Maria swept through with new misery three weeks ago. Electricity is still at a premium. By one estimate, electric power has been restored to only 10 percent of the island’s customers.
“Puerto Rico survived the hurricane,” President Trump rightly says, and “now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.” Hard words, but true.
The president had even harder things to say in a later tweet: ” We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in Puerto Rico forever!”
Mr. Trump earlier ordered the military to coordinate the receipt and distribution of the waves of federal aid — food, water, clothes, medicines — arriving from the mainland, and the military services have in remarkably short order wrestled a certain order from chaos. But the aid only goes to the village gate.
Ricardo Rosello, the governor of Puerto Rico, asked Rosa Emilia Rodriguez, a prosecutor, to investigate complaints that federal aid was reaching the cities but was not always getting to the people actually suffering. Some of the complaints have now proved to be on the mark. Hungry Puerto Ricans, including children, are deprived of something to eat and clean water because they didn’t “vote right.”
“This morning we received information from a town on the island where a person close to the municipal administration was asking one of our federal agents that the supplies could not be touched because they were for his mayor,” Prosecutor Rodriguez told a radio interviewer in San Juan. She learned from another source that the mayor was hoarding the supplies to distribute to only those who voted for him.
Some Puerto Ricans grumble that Mr. Trump didn’t scold the hurricane victims in Florida and Texas the way he scolds Puerto Ricans, with the implication that race must have something to do with it. But there was not much to scold on the mainland, where Americans of many colors also suffered from the wind and the rain, and the harsh words for Puerto Ricans are from Puerto Ricans themselves.
It takes a certain kind of villain to exploit the hunger of a child, and if Rosa Emilia Rodriguez, the governor’s prosecutor, identifies the exploiters she has a duty to prosecute, and no exceptions, political or otherwise.
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