Freddy and Tony’s restaurant up on Allegheny serves incredible Puerto Rican food as it should be – no frills. Hank asked them about the US response to the devastation Hurricane Maria wrought there and they say it’s hard to tell with no communication. “I won’t feel confident until I hear my Mom saying yes, they’re helping us, yes, we are receiving things, yes, there’s water – we can buy water, yes – there’s gas,” says waitress Jessica.
It’s been a week and then some since Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico – leveling thousands of homes and knocking out power to the island state. Yes, there’s an ocean between here and there and yes, ports and airports are damaged. But Luis Bonilla says he’s not seeing the will to respond that he saw for Houston and Florida – and that starts at the top. “The difference is whoever the President is. That’s the difference right there,” says Luis, seated at a table during lunch hour. “If it was another President, like Obama, or the Bushes, they would have gotten a response much quicker.”
There’s been plenty of fuss regarding the Jones Act, a 100-year-old maritime law that protects American shipping but cramps Puerto Rico’s ability to get aid from foreign ships and governments, aid that it badly needs now. It was waived by President Trump in the wake of Harvey and Irma… why not for Puerto Rico now? Luis says the disaster response should be “Just like any other state in the United States… should be. Without a doubt.”
He’s right; of course, the US has to take care of its own. Puerto Ricans are US citizens. But they’re represented by only one non-voting commissioner on Capitol Hill, so they’ve got no clout. Help’s starting to trickle in, but eight days after Maria, Puerto Rico should have all the help it needs, on the ground – now. No excuses.