Municipal Response to Disasters in Puerto Rico Cost Candidates Their Re-elections

Ten of the 20 towns in Puerto Rico that have received a lower percentage of the recovery funds approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had new mayors taking office in January. The most notorious case is Vieques, which had only received 4.9% of the $51.3 million that FEMA obligated before the November 2020 elections, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) found when comparing the funds allocated with the amount of money disbursed as of that date. In addition to the island municipality, the rest of the towns that elected new mayors and that had low percentages of FEMA money in their coffers were Culebra (7.3%), Adjuntas (9.6%), Patillas (14.8%), Arecibo (16.1%), Santa Isabel (18.3%), Lares (22.6%), Corozal (23.5%), San Lorenzo (24.1%) and Ponce (24.5%). There is a perception that after an emergency, the person closest to the residents are the mayors. However, research shows that this is not so in all cases, especially after Hurricane María in 2017 and the earthquakes in 2020.

Communities in Puerto Rico will Remain at the Mercy of Water Rationing and Flooding for Several Years

In the Cubuy neighborhood in Canóvanas, having a cistern — sometimes two, or even three — is indispensable to deal with the unpredictability of the potable water service. When there is no such option, you have to resort to gallons, buckets or containers to store the liquid. Madeline Negrón, 48, a resident of the Eva Flores sector of this neighborhood, is witness to that, and she says it doesn’t take a hurricane, storm or a drought for the pipes to be empty for up to three days straight. When Hurricane María struck in 2017, the roughly 10 residents who live in this area had to wait several weeks before water service was restored. The situation is much worse in times of droughts, since Cubuy and other neighborhoods in Canóvanas are among the first sectors to get rationed when the levels of the Carraízo reservoir — located in Trujillo Alto — drop.