In Puerto Rico, issues of corrupt government officials, unused disaster supplies, and preventable deaths are causing civil unrest.
On Monday (Jan. 20), demonstrators took to the streets to protest in front of the governor’s mansion and demand her resignation, the Associated Press reports.
According to the AP, the protests began after the recent discovery of apparently forgotten Hurricane Maria disaster supplies, and amid ongoing earthquakes.
“We have to get rid of all the corrupt officials,” said Mari Rivera, 33, a government employee, who said that Gov. Wanda Vázquez “needs to stop blaming others and show her face,” the AP reports.
“Wanda! Turn over the disaster supplies!” one protester yelled into a bullhorn, according to the AP.
Fox News reports, on Sunday (Jan. 19), Gov. Vázquez fired two officials — Housing Secretary Fernando Gil and Department of Family Secretary Glorimar Andújar — amid the Hurricane Maria aid scandal, which was discovered sitting in a warehouse in the southern coastal city of Ponce.
Their terminations followed Gov. Vázquez’s firing of Carlos Acevedo, the director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management, the day before when video of the warehouse full of allegedly forgotten emergency supplies posted on social media went viral, Fox News reports.
In her initial statement, Gov. Vázquez said, “There are thousands of people who made sacrifices to bring aid to the south and it’s unforgivable that resources have been kept in a warehouse,” Fox News reports.
According to Fox News, the video was posted live on Facebook by blogger Lorenzo Delgado, and showed residents breaking into the warehouse to distribute the unused supplies, which included water bottles, cots, baby food and other basic aid that has reportedly been sitting there since September 2017 following the devastating Category 4 hurricane.
Amid a recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake and countless aftershocks, displaced residents and those still without power and sufficient water supply desperately need the aid.
The White House said that President Trump’s declaration of a major disaster in Puerto Rico and allocation of federal funding for repairs, temporary housing, and low-cost loans was intended “to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” Fox News reports.
Vázquez said no citizens will be prosecuted for breaking into the warehouse in order to obtain the relief, the AP reports.
She added that she chose to also fire Gil and Andújar after officials were unable to provide further information she requested about other collection and distribution centers in meetings with leaders of her administration, Fox News reports.
However, demonstrators demanding her resignation aren’t buying it, and like the protests to get former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to step down, they are vowing to remain in the streets until Vázquez steps down too, the AP reports.
Evangelical preacher Ramón Marrero, 75, told the AP that he and his family are among the protestors “to show our indignation, our annoyance, our rebellion.”
The rebellion spans across Puerto Rico and beyond in Vieques, a smaller island about seven miles east of the mainland.
NBC News reports that a teenage girl died of the flu there, and her family is blaming her death on the government for not rebuilding the municipality’s only hospital since it was destroyed during Hurricane Maria.
Jaideliz Moreno Ventura, 13, died after suffering flu-like symptoms and Puerto Rico’s Health Secretary, Rafael Rodriguez Mercado, has ordered an investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death, NBC News reports.
The teen’s family said they took her to a hospital on the mainland for observation, but after she tested negative for influenza, they returned to Vieques, NBC News reports.
The news station also reports that Jaideliz’s symptoms got worse a couple of days after returning to Vieques and she started convulsing.
The 13-year-old’s cousin, José Ventura, told NBC News that although the family rushed her to the Center for Diagnostics and Treatment, a local clinic in Vieques, the facility did not have the equipment needed to treat her.
According to what Ventura told NBC News, the clinic did not have a functioning respirator to give her the oxygen she needed when her levels plummeted. They only had a smaller, manual pump.
Jaideliz died while en route to the mainland via an air ambulance, NBC News reports.
“If we had more resources, she would be with us right now,” Ventura told NBC News. “They have forgotten about us.”
Democratic lawmakers demanded a probe into FEMA’s failure to rebuild the smaller island’s hospital facility two years after the hurricane, NBC News reports.
According to the news station, Jaideliz’s mother called for their right to “have a dignified hospital, with medical equipment and supplies —so that no other mother will have to go through what I am dealing with now.”
(Photo: Jose Jimenez/Getty Images)