As the humanitarian situation remains dire in Puerto Rico, thousands of shipping containers on docks in San Juan are offering a visual representation of the widespread mismanagement of recovery efforts by the Trump administration following Hurricane Maria’s destruction.
Though President Trump finally agreed to waive the Jones Act on Thursday in order to allow ships to bring more food, water, and fuel to the island, the long-awaited decision may not be immediately helpful to residents—as the lack of aid getting to survivors appears to be due to logistical blunders in addition to bureaucratic decision-making.
About 9,000 20-foot containers have arrived at a maritime terminal in San Juan in the past few days, following the storm’s landfall on September 20. A lack of vehicles and drivers has made it impossible to distribute the aid. With blocked roads, a fuel shortage, and cell phone towers down across the commonwealth, the thousands of federal workers who have arrived on the island and the Puerto Rican government has been unable to create an efficient delivery system.
“It’s kind of like Katrina: We got it. We got it. Oh, shit, send in the cavalry. This is a hit on White House decision making.”—Ret. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore
While the severity of the storm combined with Puerto Rico’s aged, fragile infrastructure are part of what led to the especially challenging recovery effort, critics have said President Trump’s lackluster and delayed responses to the disaster have led to a slow mobilization of federal resources which could have avoided the logjam in San Juan’s ports.
Retired lieutenant general Russel Honore, who was called in to manage recovery efforts in New Orleans after days of inaction by the Bush administration following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg that the federal government should have sent relief workers and aid ahead of the storm.
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