tv Washington Journal Edwin Melendez Discusses Federal Aid for Puerto Rico CSPAN September 29, 2017 10:38pm-11:15pm EDT
house announced health and human services secretary tom price has resigned. his resignation letter reads in part -- the white house said that effective tonight, if you desist and secretary for health john wright will serve as acting hhs secretary. more now on federal aid for puerto rico. from "washington journal," this is just over 30 minutes. we are joined from new york by edwin melendez, with the hunter college center for puerto rico studies, the director of that organization. thank you for joining us on "washington journal." guest: my pleasure. host: we sit here this morning from eight days or nine days after the impact of hurricane maria and puerto rico. you are in touch with people on
the island, what are your biggest concerns this morning? well, the response has been a little bit slow out of the gates. islandared the whole emergency situation, no electricity, no running water and the list goes on. you can see the images of people leaving the island, trying to get to the airport. it is a desperate situation. i just hope that it is not too ofe to prevent a deepening this humanitarian crisis, and a hope we are much faster to send troops down there to take control of distribution. supplies seem to be there. it is a question of logistics. i think the only entity capable of taking control of the situation is the armed forces. host: those efforts ramping up
quickly the last couple of days. the headline in "the wall street journal" front page, puerto rico eight trickles in. they ranked that the diploid a three-star general to puerto rico to oversee efforts. and the administration weighed the jones act to allow non-us ships to carry cargo to puerto rico and the transportation department said it was making $40 million immediately available to pay for road and bridge repairs. what can you tell us about the status of the infrastructure in puerto rico going into hurricane maria? there has been a great impact from the storm itself. guest: if you look at the electrical system, the grid was antiquated. the generation is based on old burners of oil.
it started about a decade ago, and with community opposition, deferred maintenance is more than four years old and it needs more. although lines are not operating and you really need to restore that before you can start energy generation. the areas that were more affected, that can be restored come backlowly will in line, -- online, but the , especially inhy san juan, i really going to be a long, long haul before they have electricity. anduse it depends on pumps, it is a complicated sort of
situation in puerto rico with the infrastructure. for example, there was no satellite system in place for communications. fema did not have that, the local government did not have that, the army has that, so they are hopefully bringing temporary cell towers to restore communications. some people are coming back online with those, but this is almost 10 years -- 10 days after. it has been a long wait for these measures to be in place, and we now have refugees and american citizens fleeing the island. the question is, are they going to come back? host: edwin melendez is the center for puerto rican studies at hunter college in new york city. we welcome phone calls at (202)-748-8000 for democrats. (202)-748-8001 for republicans. and for independents and others,
(202)-748-8002. if you have ties to the island of puerto rico, either living here or you have relatives in puerto rico know, we would love to hear from you on a special line, (202)-748-8003. edwin melendez, how difficult is it, how much more difficult is it for puerto rico in this situation, not, or example, to have a stronger representative presence in the u.s. congress? as you know, that has been an issue forever, the fact that we only have someone that can speak, but not vote on most matters. have fourd that, we or five puerto ricans in congress and they had played a tremendous leadership role throughout the financial crisis and the hurricane disaster, so
and we have a diaspora concentrated in florida, and new york, it is the national capital of media, and in florida, it is a swing state where a lot of people pay attention, so that distribution, pennsylvania, illinois, all of those are they havecases, where local state, registrations and the like. they are influential and can move the needle where it needs to be done, but obviously, long-term, we have to rethink the relationship between puerto rico and the united states. host: we have a call waiting from florida. susan, good morning. caller: good morning. i have a couple questions. first of all, my heart goes out to all of the puerto rican
citizens. it is absolutely horrible to watch this. having said that, i cannot help wondering what the politicians are doing with all the money. taxes, havey give all kinds of money. how is it they have not spent in their infrastructure, in their building codes, and such things for the protection, especially since they are out in the ocean, thatd isolated, and in past of hurricanes that have -- in the path of hurricanes that have come in? guest: that is relevant and an important question is i think the situation prior to the hurricane is a shared responsibility. it is an american responsibility because puerto rico has been a territory since 1898 and the local political leadership at
some point showed to be inadequate, and for example, over the last i would say two decades, there's no consensus on how to move forward with the economy and everything else. corruption, so when congress enacted to control finances and to allow for bankruptcy, there was a sentiment in congress that they were incapable of bringing the country back into modern society with progress, as it was in prior decades, and modernizing the infrastructure at the time. we're 40 years later, and here we are, with an inadequate system. i think reforms in puerto rico and the united states are
necessary to move forward. int: we have ana on the line silver spring, maryland. tell us about your ties to puerto rico. good morning. caller: my mother's family is from puerto rico. they are from the south of the country and southeast. this has been really disconcerting to watch from afar. it is troubling to not be able to speak to my family that is fair or you get thirdhand accounts that somebody saw someone in a shelter, but for me, i find all of this, especially in contrast in the response to harvey, really troubling, and i cannot help but see that the leadership, and generally speaking, the congress, seems to have no regard for the life of puerto ricans who are u.s. citizens. for me, you see how they
responded to texas, and there is a lot of devastation there, but i cannot help that deal that the administration has looked at puerto rico, and seeing that politically or economically speaking, is not attribute as much to the country and is not deserve the same kind of response. host: ana, inks for calling and -- thanks for calling and good luck with your family. edwin melendez, go ahead. guest: unfortunately, many of us have been unable to talk to our loved ones in puerto rico. i got a text from my son a few minutes ago that his cell phone is back online, so things will start improving a little bit. is that theity response has been inadequate. there is no way not to think that. look, there were
helicopters at his disposition as soon as the bush administration realized it was an emergency. ofaw an interview last night police helicopter drivers and pilots saying that their heart is broken every time they pass by and people are waving at them and they have to let them know that they will be back the next day and the next day with supplies. generators, insulin, so it is heartbreaking to see what is happening and a very slow response. what 20after we knew inches of fodder meant in terms of flooding and the destruction of the winds. much should have been done now. it is still not too late. people are waiting for help, but they need to be redoubled.
host: president trump will visit puerto rico and the virgin islands next tuesday, and he is tweeting this morning, puerto rico governor stated "the administration and the president, every time he has spoken, they have delivered. the fact is that puerto rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes, and decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!" on the independent mind. caller: hello, i would like to the buildings were built one millionaires the coast of puerto rico, i would like to know the damage. host: also, a comment on twitter, joe asked, did the building codes on the island need to be meeting certain standards? to the need to be updated? -- do they need to be updated? guest: absolutely.
sandy, many after houses were damaged on the northeast coast and quotes are was put and every house up 10 feeds, and the same thing in other areas, and i do not understand for the life of me why the rules are not up to code . and wind resistance, it is based and nowte initiatives we have the opportunity to rebuild the electrical fit and in normal times, about one third of the water collected is lost, it is an opportunity to rebuild puerto rico the right way. note are construction codes enforced, and before the storm,
puerto rico has 20% vacancy in housing, in people's shelters. it is an opportunity to think about housing programs that was sort of used the capacity be wee in the good areas where can try to move people out of situations where they will be at risk in the future. we are not going to be able to move puerto rico from the storm area, so we get hit every year by two or three storms. occasionally, you get one through the middle and one that 4, damaging 5 or everything in their path. host: let's hear from mario in lebanon, ohio. republican line. caller: yes, just some basic questions, if you would address them, who has first responder responsibility in puerto rico for disasters? rico is partpuerto
of the united states territory. inrto ricans are americans is depending on the federal government for all things, so you have that responsibility but also the local responsibility. who's responsible for having an alternative communication system based on satellites for this type of situation? i would say that is a shared responsibility because you have regulations at the federal level that provide the framework for that to happen, but the local level is ultimately responsible for enforcing codes and having those emergency services. i think moving forward, it has to be a partnership.
however, i would have to say that it is clear that the team on the ground sent forward, because they were there for irma , and these people are working hard and they control the logistics and the connection with the local government was completely broken. that was evident one to two days after the storm. realizationg to the logistics are critical to this. host: mario, you have another question? caller: yes, i think the observation would be that if you florida, texas, people in the united states are extremely generous. and when citizens are hurting, we want to help out, but we definitely want to help a people prepared to help themselves also. if they know they are in a hurricane zone, and like the woman who called for, mentioned helping themselves, we do not want to hear all the bellyaching
when help comes along and it does not come along in the way they want. , doesedwin melendez puerto rico have its own national guard, example? guest: they had their own national guard. reserved oft is a the united states army and under the command of the governor to some extent, and the question is, their capacity to respond to this situation. i think the point is well taken. the local authorities needed to be more prepared. they needed to have better emergency measures, but i will go back to the same point, it is a shared responsibility. partnership is not working in. lenders, this is an extreme situation and i doubt any local or federal authority would have prevented the kind of damage a storm with that kind of accumulation of rain overnight
was going to cause. we realized what it was, one day after, two days after, we knew what it was. puerto rico is not in an emergency situation yet. the president has to do that for the all -- for the event. host: let's hear on the independent line. caller: good morning, "washington journal." i have two questions for the guest. the first is, -- three questions for the guest. the first is what he can propose to the military to help the military members that are serving but have no way to connect to their family and puerto rico. i think that is something that can be addressed immediately. we were able to talk to our family in afghanistan be skype, and iia think the people in these ships
should have some help to be reassured their efforts are being focused towards that family member or at least to reassure them their family is ok. number two, what is puerto rico going to do in regards to their battle against the zika virus now that that isn't the priority in regards to this crisis? will the federal government continue to help them to prepare and be proactive on the zika crisis? regardsthird one is in to the people that have to be puerto rico as refugees, will they be able to have medical attention if they are infected with the zika virus? we have two issues, one, the transmission to people, and the
second one through the mosquito. host: ok, several items. edwin melendez, if you want to address each briefly. guest: let me see, as we know, puerto ricans have served in the military for a long time. that means there are some facilities that have hospitals and bases were veterans go and there is a network on the ground. veteran services that can provide that function that you mentioned, and because the army medicationslike disposable to them, i think this is a great suggestion. puerto ricans are close to military bases throughout the united states and military service runs in the family. i think that is a great point to bring up. the second point is the zika virus is part of a greater concern of health epidemics and
so forth that is right now, right now, we are at a critical moment and zika is part of it, but you have dead animals aoating around in the water, lot of the sewage systems have been affected, and contaminated waters are floating around, so the risk for epidemics is really hard, and that is one of the most pressing things to do, the health intervention has to be aggressive and immediate. and the third -- host: the third issue was on refugees, folks leaving the island. have a classow we of puerto ricans that are refugees. we typically send them internationally, but now we have people making lines to board
cruise ships and other places to beenpuerto rico and it has packed for days in the airport with thousands of people waiting to get into the airplane with restrictions on planes landing and that stuff. in the case of we will see more of that and in the ds for a, we are preparing to create a network for community leaders and organizations responding to spike in of that huge migration that will come and they will come with all kinds of needs. we will receive them, but if you're apartment is not adequate for the amount of people that need shelter, housing, so it is a critical condition moving forward and we are trying to do the best we can to create a serving house for receiving people but it is a lot of work to come.
host: "lost eternal" reporting -- wall street journal reporting, maria raced away from the u.s. east coast, giving the nation its first breath from the constant threat of tropical storms and more than one month. we hear from john in roanoke, virginia, caller: independent line. caller:good morning -- independent line. caller: good morning. andtch cnn, fox news, guy,, and yesterday, this he pretty much strained msl in new orleans, and he said this thing and puerto rico -- ightened the mess up new orleans, and he was pretty upset about why this has not been strained -- straightened out, and cnn had more variety with the mayor of san juan and
she was baking for help -- begging for help, and then they ask this guy about the container sitting on the dock they keep showing, all the containers backed up, and he said 50 some have televisions there, so what is really going on? why is puerto rico being shortchanged? it is nothing like katrina. host: edwin melendez, go ahead. guest: that is the question that all the people are asking. in the ds for a, people -- here in the diaspora, people and not sleeping. they are trying to raise the there is any silver lining out of this, it is that the american folks are coming to realize puerto ricans are american citizens and we have more than 100 years of history
of the relationship with the united states, and that we need to do more for our fellow americans down there, the response has been slow, but that is the question people are asking, what is going on? host: quick question on twitter, and give us a little bit on what your organization at the center for puerto rican studies, other than the hurricane impact, what do you do in general? one twitter question, this puerto rico generate revenues to the u.s.? guest: yes, puerto rico is part assistant net,et we pay social security, medicare, we have veteran services there because we have a large number of puerto ricans serving in the first war in the ,.s. army, and all the branches ad puerto rico, in fact, is
state that the united states, yes, it is an autonomous region with a constitution, the commonwealth was enacted in 1962. but puerto rico, that tension between the relationship of puerto rico and united states, in times like this, it calls into question how do we move forward with a better and move forward in . better capacity it has not been resolved fully yet. it will have to be addressed. is devoted primarily to be puerto rican community in the united states, but in the last three years, the keep an eye on puerto rico because it is important for the diaspora. in the last few years, we have been in the community and to think about puerto rico and
puerto ricans. ,o think of them as one people that is 5.5 million in the united states, and 3.4 million down in puerto rico. to see them as a whole, not just they are there, and we are here. that understanding is the focus of what we are trying to do in recent times. that is what the focus. one of the things we have done is we have created a roundtable from analysis to look at the fiscal crisis. all the things that are going with the so we're trying to be a catalyst for community involvement, with in puerto pening rico. we see our role departing from
unitedmunity here in the states and its connection to puerto ricans in the island. that will be launched today or the row, when we launch first part, you know, more hits overnight and next day our service crashed because of the interest. 30,000 people try to get in in a few hours, we were not prepared for that. we are opening another server to take care of the overflow. the donations,m, you know, nine million people. host: our viewer consist follow centropr. from tallahassee, florida, james on the independent line. thanks for waiting, go ahead. for c-span.k you i'm wondering, these people coming up here, we've got our problems.
my sister lives toward tampa and are still under water there and not listing the rest of florida, not sure how to handle the influx and everything else going on here. back in my house from the hurricane last year. couple quicko you, ones. why was puerto rico behind 73 in debt?ollars two, if they're americans, why taxes?hey pay federal they don't pay federal income tax. three, it seems to me and the sking you, maybe difference with the local government or government, rico, is that rto the local government and the overnors weren't prepared and didn't do their job properly. host: let you go there and see can get one more call. edwin melendez, if you want to comments and concerns. guest: well, the question of the
data, you know, every time you orrow money, there are two sides, a -- side and obviously the political authorities and central governor of puerto rico that power the money. he problem was that when the recession started in 2006, a couple years prior to the the united isis in states, 2008, that was related o the elimination of the task that american corporations were giving to operations in puerto so-called section 936, when recession started, instead measures,preventative the local government decided to carry deficit under the assumption they would be ver and debt would repaid. all of that was evident by recession, fter the there was no way that baroing was way out of the situation. and i will agree with you that the capacity of the
local leadership to come to terms with that reality and and policies ures and i will ae that were going to bring puerto ico back to, you know, a recovery, were not implemented. on the other hand, you cannot is not responsible, and the le, congress jones act, we heard about in aiver, congress eliminated public utilities from going into bankruptcy. we didn't have the ability to do. what would you do? close the electrical system? borrowd and owe now $9 billion. break down that debt, for example, deficits were took over medicaid, why? uerto rico kept 50% of reimbursement and every other state gets 80 or 90% of depending on numbers, puerto rico and 50%.itory capped at i will say share responsibility. it is both the united states and local leadership. so, we need reform in both
sides. if we can get one more quick call to south carolina. there.m, hello caller: good morning. host: you are on the air, go ahead. caller: i'm calling to find out not asn't puerto rico the ht in as 51st state in united states? host: wrap it up with edwin of ndez, what is the status efforts to make puerto rico a state? where are we on that? know, let me you just say for the record that the puerto rico hether will be next to the united an independentor country, was the dwad that was the 19th century when the first puerto ricans came to areas of the ther united states. it is a long question. ight now the -- it is a following. you have latin american
language in terms of and culture and everything else hat has been, you know, governed by the united states over centuries, right? right majority of w, puerto ricans are in the united states. the first language of the puerto rico is english, they are u.s. born. cultures,the future of right? how do you reconcile the fact you have a nation and how bring that nation to another nation? that is ultimately the -- we to resolve. it is america ready to receive people that are not going to look like any other or e, not like alaska hawaii, they have a large ethnic a ive population, so it is situation that we both on the american side and puerto rico head on, but it is a unique situation and we need to figure it out. been edwin est has melendez, director of the center
studies in new n york city talking about puerto rico and more specifically about of hurricane maria, >> c-span's "washington journal" and every day with news policy issues that impact you. coming up saturday morning, the founder and cochair of the march for racial issues talks about the state of racial issues in the u.s. than a look at the cost of illegal immigration with andayers -- on taxpayers, in her recent article about the shutdown of a nuclear plant in massachusetts, a boston globe magazine contributor writes about safety concerns surrounding the closing. be sure to watch c-span's "washington journal" live at 7:00 eastern.
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