Fourteen Democrats from the House Committee on Natural Resources have called for an investigation into the Harvard study published last week that concluded Hurricane Maria caused 73 times more deaths than originally claimed by the U.S. government.
House Democrats from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have also expressed outrage and have called for a 9/11 style investigation into the death toll. If the House Committee on Natural Resources and Congressional Hispanic Caucus certify the findings of the Harvard study, Hurricane Maria will officially be the second deadliest hurricane in United States history.
Thousands lacked shelter and electricity as a result of the Category 4 hurricane. 283 Puerto Rican schools are closing this summer due to infrastructure damage and low enrollment as students move to the mainland United States.
There was widespread condemnation regarding President Trump’s response to the hurricane, as FEMA relief efforts were considerably slower than those in Texas and Florida. In an interview with Anderson Cooper, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz stated “I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.” Commenting on the frail infrastructure on the island, President Trump defended FEMA, expressing considerable criticism of government officials in Puerto Rico and consistently mentioning the island’s $70 billion debt and distance from the mainland United States.
Puerto Rico is a United States territory, with a population of nearly 3.4 million American citizens. As a territory, Puerto Rico is eligible for the same funding as all states. However, Puerto Rico, like the District of Columbia, has no voting representation in Congress. Once Puerto Ricans move to one of the fifty states, they are eligible to vote wherever they seek residence, and the recent increase of Puerto Rican voters in Florida has led to ongoing questions of their electoral power. The Floridian Cuban population is nearly outnumbered by Puerto Ricans, who voted around 60% for Hillary Clinton in 2016 while 54% of Cubans voted for Donald Trump.
While some Florida politicians have begun campaigning in areas with a new influx in Puerto Rican residents, others, such as congressional candidate John Ward, have argued against Puerto Rican voting rights. Various activists and candidates have expressed disgust with Ward’s comments, reminding him that Puerto Ricans are also Americans.
Journal of New England Medicine 05/29/2018; CNN 06/06/2018; Yahoo News 06/04/2018; The New York Times 04/18/2018; Politico 03/27/2018; The Hill 09/27/2018; The Hill 09/30/2017; CNN Politics 09/26/2017; The New York Times 10/06/2017; Tampa Bay Times 05/02/2018; CNN 05/22/2018