For the past 10 days, we have all witnessed the horrifying images of the disaster aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory with more American citizens than almost half the states in the Union was ravaged by a category 4 hurricane which has decimated its infrastructure, caused massive flooding and has crippled the islands power, utilities and cell services.
Such a devastating occurrence has been described as “a bigger and tougher mission than Katrina” by Russell Honoré, the U.S. military general who stepped in to clean up President Bush’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
During that time, General Honoré utilized the full power of the U.S. military ,and over 250 helicopters which soared the skies of New Orleans after Katrina. So you would expect the same treatment for Puerto Rico, correct?
After 10 days since Hurricane Maria impacted the island of Puerto Rico, the full force of the US military is nowhere to be seen, leaving the island’s ill-equipped and resourceless mayors to lead the front line. The island was also barred from receiving international aid by the U.S. government due to a tyrannical outdated law that only permits American vessels with American crew to enter Puerto Rico.
Under severe pressure and outrage by people on social media and the national media, President Trump decided to lift Jones Act’s limitations, but for only 10 days. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has announced he will be visiting Puerto Rico next Tuesday.
What made me lift an eyebrow was that after Trump said he would visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence said he would visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands later next week. You will see one political rally on Tuesday (because that’s what it will be) and another one with Pence right after. The photo ops will be great, but in the end, it will be clear that Puerto Rico is not a priority for the Trump administration and the response of the United States during the hurricane relief effort has been unacceptable.
The Messiah Factor
The inexplicable delay in getting the necessary aid to the island, coupled with Trump’s Tuesday visit, points directly towards a classic playbook play in politics, “the Messiah Factor.” It’s not a coincidence that the President ordered U.S. Navy ships to head towards Puerto Rico, which will coincide with his arrival to the island. The United States government has stalled in the delivery of necessary help to Puerto Rico to deliberately coincide with the President’s visit to Puerto Rico with the sole purpose of projecting him as a “Messiah.” President Trump and Florida Governor Rick Scott (who is already on the island) know that there are over one million Puerto Ricans in battleground state Florida (almost more than Cubans) and THAT is the reason they are throwing on their windbreaks and going to Puerto Rico. Their sole interest is political gain and not to genuinely help the people.
Don’t believe me? Why hasn’t Ted Cruz of Texas flown to Puerto Rico? Because the Puerto Rican vote in Texas is not influential as in Florida. So sit back and watch the political circus in Puerto Rico when Trump and the GOP play their roles of “Messiah” with the sole intent to capture Puerto Rican votes in Florida and then disappear months later leaving Puerto Rico forgotten. President Barack Obama did the same in 2011 during his re-election campaign by stopping in Puerto Rico to eat a sandwich, kiss babies, shake hands and promise to solve Puerto Rico’s political status. What happened? He stabbed Puerto Rico in the back by ignoring the statehood victory in 2012 on the island and signed a Republican bill into law imposing an unelected “Fiscal Board” to take over the island. So as Puerto Ricans, we have seen this movie before.
President Trump’s visit Tuesday also serves as an attempt by the U.S. government to once again occupy the island militarily and reinforce colonialism on the island during times of rebellion and anger by Puerto Ricans who are upset with the U.S. for ignoring the last two plebiscites on the island, where statehood has won with over 97% of the vote, and due to an undemocratic “fiscal board” being imposed on them by U.S. Congress invalidating their local government. The goal by the U.S. government is to make those that are upset with the U.S. for its undemocratic practices to become loyal to the U.S. by getting on their knees and kissing the American ring and “be grateful” to the nation that puts food in their mouths.
By finally dispatching last-minute LATE aid after Puerto Ricans have suffered for more than 10 days, they can make the case that they “saved Puerto Rico,” further drilling into the minds of Puerto Ricans that we would be helpless without the United States, while at the same time blocking international aid from coming into the island. This has a growing death toll due to the shortage of Diesel to supply power generators. Trump will also be armed with the ability to allege he is not racist immediately after increasing racial tensions due to the NFL anthem kneeling incidents.
Puerto Ricans, however, are smarter, and we have not only lived stunts like this throughout our history, but we have watched enough episodes of “House of Cards” to realize that the political maneuvers portrayed in that popular series are very much real and we will not drink the Kool-Aid when Trump visits Puerto Rico this Tuesday.
Trump is no Messiah. The United States has FAILED Puerto Rico once again and Puerto Ricans on the mainland and the island will NEVER FORGET.
Phillip Arroyo is a national political analyst and columnist in Orlando, Florida. He was selected as the only Puerto Rican to serve in the 2012 White House Internship, having worked in the office of the Vice President Joe Biden, where he analyzed domestic and economic issues while at the White House. He holds a Juris Doctorate from the Florida A&M College of Law in Orlando.