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The Breach: How and Why Trump Is Screwing Over Puerto Rico

Lindsay E. Beyerstein


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The Breach kicks off season three by examining the Trump administration’s inadequate hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Medical anthropologist Dr. Adia Benton joins host Lindsay Beyerstein to discuss the ongoing public health crisis on the island. Weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens lack access to clean drinking water and electricity, a potentially life-threatening situation.

Puerto Ricans are being treated like second-class citizens by private donors as well. The Red Cross has raised $350 million for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, but only $9 million for Hurricane Maria. Lindsay and Adia delve into the historical and political reasons why Puerto Rico is being neglected. 

An edited excerpt:

Lindsay: General Honoré, who headed up the relief efforts after Katrina, said that he would have put fifty thousand men on the ground in Puerto Rico if it were up to him.

Dr. Benton: Wow. I think that does tell you something. Because Katrina wasn’t a success either right?

Lindsay: No.

Dr. Benton: And hindsight is 20/20. But Honoré has actually been pretty outspoken as you know, and I think he actually hit the nail on the head by talking about this colonial relationship. I also thought it was very interesting given his own positioning, as I think he’s from Louisiana, if I’m not mistaken, and identifies as an African American Creole person. I’ll step back a second and say why I think it’s interesting. One of the big rhetorical debates going on is whether you should be talking about Katrina and Puerto Rico at the same time or the Caribbean and New Orleans in the same way. And many scholars of the region say, “Absolutely, yes, these are entangled geographies. These are places that have shared history in terms of how they’ve been positioned in the colonial era.” And so for him to point out that, “Hey, this is a situation in which the lower status of people living in these coasts – in the gulf or in the Caribbean sea – have a particular shared relationship of being devalued in this global brotherhood of sovereign states.” Puerto Rico is obviously not a sovereign state. And neither is New Orleans, but there’s certainly a connection and it’s ongoing and it’s a long one that has a long history.

Recommended Reading:

“Here’s How Breitbart and Milo Smuggled Nazi and White Nationalist Ideas Into The Mainstream“, by Joseph Bernstein for Buzzfeed, October 2017

Transcript (PDF)