Few Changes Made in Puerto Rico to Access Health Information and Services in a Hurricane

The Department of Health, responsible for inspecting and approving the emergency evacuation plans of all the island’s hospitals, only keeps them for the three hospitals that it runs. The agency’s Deputy Secretary’s Office for the Regulation and Accreditation of Health Facilities (SARAFS, in Spanish) does not keep a copy of the evacuation plans that it is supposed to have previously evaluated, and that could mean the difference between life and death for patients and employees. The information surfaced as part of a lawsuit in which the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) asked the DH for several documents and protocols related to emergency events. “As part of the inspections, SARAFS personnel check that said plans comply with all the established requirements. However, a physical copy, on paper, digital or in any other way stored in an electronic device(s) of these plans is not delivered to SARAFS personnel, nor is it received by said personnel, nor is it retained in the record of the facilities that work in the SARAFS, so the Department of Health does not have them,” according to the certification that the DH submitted to the San Juan Superior Court as part of the case.

FEMA Avoids Addressing Incidents of Sexual and Workplace Harassment in Its Puerto Rico Office

Invitations to sexual threesomes from bosses, unsolicited comments about clothing, sexual organs and the carrying of firearms, and even forceful kisses in the workplace are some of the types of gender-based violence incidents that Puerto Rican female employees have experienced from supervisors and co-workers in the Puerto Rico office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which oversees the recovery process after Hurricanes Irma and María made landfall in 2017. The Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) received and confirmed these confidences through 13 testimonies from people who work or have worked for FEMA in Puerto Rico and who decided to tell their stories after the publication in March of an investigation by this media outlet that revealed a pattern of workplace harassment in the External Affairs Office of the federal agency, with at least six cases officially reported. There is now a total of 16 cases that the CPI has documented, the majority of which are from women who have officially filed complaints against several FEMA workers in Puerto Rico for alleged situations of sexual harassment, workplace harassment, persecution, intimidation, or discrimination due to age and gender during the job recruitment process and promotion. Some of these cases, which took place between 2018 and 2020, have remained unaddressed for more than three years and in certain instances, the employer keeps the people who filed the complaint close to their alleged aggressors and they have not been given any remedies. The CPI requested reactions and interviews on this matter for every claim related to FEMA, both local, regional, and the agency’s central office, but all refused to be interviewed and responded with general statements that do not address the questions asked and the issues reported.

Most Puerto Rican evacuees in Chicago didn’t benefit from FEMA hotel program

Of those who arrived in Chicago affected by Hurricane Maria , only 67 families entered the hotel program of the federal agency, while 155 were located or are on a list for subsidized housing in the city. Others already returned when they did not get where to stay.

Hurricanes expose governments’ decades of negligence in Caribbean climate change preparedness

Climate change effects like rising sea-level, more rainfall and stronger hurricanes are quickly eroding the coasts of vulnerable Caribbean islands and actively destroying community life and economic activity in plain sight with little to no governmental or international action to protect citizens. Hurricane’s Irma and Maria terribly exposed this institutional neglect in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, and British Virgin Islands where infrastructure collapsed, and coastal constructions were destroyed by storm surge and erosion. Politics play an important role in lack of action and visibility of these island-colonies -and about 10 others in the region- in official world global warming efforts because their data is not considered and they are not included in their analysis.

The Fantasy of the Fiscal Plan for Puerto Rico

The most recent version of Puerto Rico’s fiscal plan for its central government would chart the future of the country, giving some degree of certainty to citizens, businesses and investors to bet on the island’s dismal economy. Yet it is built on economic projections totally incompatible with the historical experience of places that have been destroyed by hurricanes the world over. The plan also clashes with what has been Puerto Rico’s economic trajectory. In the past 30 years, the economy has never reached annual growth such as that estimated for fiscal year 2019 by the financial team of Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares. The group is led by Christian Sobrino, governor’s representative before the Fiscal Control Board (FCB), chief economic adviser to the governor, president of the Government Development Bank and chairman of the Financial Advisory & Fiscal Agency Authority (AAFAF by its Spanish acronym); and Gerardo Portela, executive director of AAFAF and by virtue of his position, member of the boards of directors of all public corporations.

Majority of Claimants in Puerto Rico Still Await for Assistance From FEMA, Many Found ‘Ineligible’

Armando Vega Martínez anxiously awaits for the day he can have a home again. The house in which he lived, among the mountains of the Guaraguao neighborhood in Ponce, was completely destroyed when an adjacent structure fell on it after succumbing to the powerful winds of hurricane María just over four months ago. To find a new home, the 69-year-old man has $13,000 that was recently awarded to him by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to which he appealed for aid the same way as roughly one million people have done. “With that, nowadays you can’t even have two ‘zocos’ [or house pillars],” Vega Martínez assured, still struggling to verbalize what he experienced that September 20. “We have gone through hell.