Call to end Puerto Rico's colonial status amid ongoing power shortage, privatisation plans

Five months after Hurricane Maria hit the United States’ Caribbean colony of Puerto Rico, swaths of the island still have no electricity, while food and water supplies have been slow to arrive, Democracy Now! reported on February 19.

Common Dreams reported: “As nearly 250,000 Puerto Ricans remain without power five months after Hurricane Maria struck the island territory — the longest blackout in U.S. history — the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) said Sunday it will reduce its operating reserve to save money, as the island's government moves toward privatizing the authority.”

Democracy Now! added that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been hit by a series of scandals. Despite approving a US$156 million contract for a one-woman company to deliver 30 million meals in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, only a fraction were actually delivered.

This came after FEMA gave more than $30 million in contracts to a newly created Florida company that failed to deliver a single tarp to Puerto Rico.

Speaking to Democracy Now!, mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz strongly opposed plans to privatise the island’s power.

“Electricity isn’t only about getting the lights in your house turned on,” Yulin Cruz said. “Electricity is about providing people access to equal services. So, a private company, which is moved by profits, as it should be, may decide that in this very remote urban area of Puerto Rico, it is not worthwhile for them to put money into the system, it is not worthwhile for them to replace the light poles ...

“There is a reason why essential services are handled by the government in an island nation that’s a hundred miles long by 35 miles wide.”

Yulin Cruz connected the failures to aid Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s destruction, and ongoing plans for greater privatisation, to the island’s colonial status, telling Democracy Now!: “”I think this is also the time now to look at the relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States and ensure that Puerto Rico stop being a colony of the United States once and for all.”

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