Repression, not aid after Puerto Rican earthquake

This 12 January 2020 video says about itself:

Two years after the devastations of Hurricane Maria, many in Puerto Rico are struggling to get back on their feet. Now, after being hit with another earthquake, thousands are in shelters, fearful for the future. CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports.

By Andrea Lobo:

As refugees from earthquakes increase, Puerto Rican authorities prioritize repressive measures

15 January 2020

After two weeks of tremors in Puerto Rico, peaking on January 7 with a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings and left at least one dead, heavy seismic activity and warnings continue. With thousands losing or fleeing their homes, afraid that they will collapse, the response by local authorities and US government has been marked by callous austerity and fears of social unrest.

The island’s Secretary of State, Elmer Román, announced Tuesday that there are 8,023 refugees in “official” camps administrated by the government or NGOs, while “many” more are sleeping in smaller camps and on sidewalks.

The authorities said they will stop providing shelter locally, while the aftershocks continue to cause structural damage, and federal authorities estimate a 17 percent chance of an earthquake of 6.4 magnitude or greater in the next 30 days. Even though experts have warned against mass relocations due to costs for refugees, pushing them to take risks, and a slower recovery process, Román announced that the government will not provide aid unless people travel to five “base camps” set up only until this week by the National Guard.

Puerto Ricans on the island and supporters in the continental US have taken their own initiative to provide staple goods and other aid, with hundreds of volunteers driving to the most affected towns.

The administration of acting governor Wanda Vázquez, who was installed last August after mass demonstrations involving up to 1 million people forced the resignation of two governors, has prioritized the preparedness for another social upheaval over preparedness for another natural disaster.

Beyond the deployment of the local 8,500 National Guard troops, all local police have been called back to duty from vacations and Washington will send 300 security officials from special task forces. Vázquez signed an executive decree so that the latter are immediately sworn in as “agents of peace”, with special enforcement powers. The local legislature introduced a bill this week to request the deployment of Special Forces from the US military.

Another bill requests “financial institutions and telecommunication companies to create deferred systems of payments, without interest, to those affected,” and a third orders a publicity campaign on legal issues for those who lost their homes “without limiting that insurance companies, financial institutions, banks and law firms in Puerto Rico organize their legal departments and personnel and reach out to camps themselves.”

After a power outage across the entire island on January 7, power had been restored to most of the island by Tuesday, but 11,000 people were still without electricity in the Arecibo region and 15,000 without running water. Major repairs were still being carried out to the two main power plants of the island.

Last week, the Trump administration approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico, but doubts have been raised that even the meager $5 million made available through the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) will be delivered after the scandalous response of the Trump administration to Hurricane Maria in 2017.

The estimated costs for rebuilding the island after Hurricane Maria surpassed $100 billion, but the White House has only released $1.5 billion of the $8 billion approved in federal aid. A Housing and Urban Development official told the Washington Post last week that Puerto Rico has only spent $5.8 million, citing “strong financial controls” by the federal government.

Puerto Rican National Guard Major General José Juan Reyes declared this week that their relief operations have been affected by the fact that out of the $550 million approved for the Puerto Rican National Guard in response to Hurricane Maria, the Trump administration reassigned $420 million to build the border wall with Mexico.

With trillions assigned for war by overwhelming bipartisan majorities since Hurricane Maria, the Trump administration is preparing a devastating war against Iran as it starves the US territory of funds.

The corporate press has stressed the surprise factor of the earthquakes, claiming that “generations have not felt such an earthquake.” However, the alarm was raised by experts repeatedly, but was dismissed. The extent of the destruction and suffering this week is the result of official negligence by a government that places the profit interests of Wall Street above social needs.

A 6.0 earthquake on September 23 last year—50 miles off the coast compared to less than 10 miles during the recent tremors—raised alarms across the island, just like the 6.4 earthquake in January 2014, located 17 miles north of the coastline.

Shortly after the September 2019 earthquake, Christa Von Hillebrandt-Andrade, the former head of the island’s seismic network, warned: “The island of Puerto Rico is surrounded by faults that could generate very strong earthquakes, and other faults cross it that could lead to major earthquakes and a significant impact. One can expect an earthquake above magnitude 8… Puerto Rico has to be ready for an earthquake and tsunami, 100 percent 24/7.”

This week, Von Hillebrandt told AP, “For decades, scientists and people like me have been informing and alerting communities and the government of Puerto Rico of the physical threat,” denouncing that “not much action was taken.”

Moreover, while the immediate structural integrity of the schools is being assessed, officials are entirely silent about making the necessary renovations or reconstructions to guarantee the safety of students.

The president of the Puerto Rican Association of Engineers, Juan Alicea, said last October in response to a new study that found that 1,000 of the 1,200 schools in the country have not been subject to any of the necessary renovations to abide by 1987 anti-seismic building codes, “The worst thing is that we know what to do and how to do it, but it must be carried out.” This week, Alicea told AP that 200,000 homes are not built to code: “If we don’t take action, this is going to cost us a lot of money and a lot of lives.”

Trump administration to illegally divert an additional $7.2 billion to border wall construction: here.

Puerto Rico after the earthquake

This 10 January 2029 video from the USA says about itself:

Stand with Puerto Rico | Tulsi Gabbard

When I went to Puerto Rico a few months ago to join the people’s protest against corruption, I met many people still trying to recover from the hurricanes. And now earthquakes. Join me.

Here are 5 ways you can help.

Puerto Ricans without electricty, water after earthquake

This 9 January 2020 video is called What’s Happening in Puerto Rico After The 6.4 Magnitude Earthquake.

By Matthew Taylor:

Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans still without electricty, water days after earthquake

10 January 2020

All across Puerto Rico, residents continued to reel from the damage inflicted by the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the impoverished US territory on Tuesday. At least two thirds of the island’s population remained without electricity as of Thursday, and 250,000 without clean water. Everywhere, residents could be seen sleeping outside, fearful of aftershocks.

One death has been attributed to the earthquake so far, a figure likely to rise as officials continue to assess the damage. As many as 40 aftershocks with a magnitude of 3.0 or higher have occurred since the quake on Tuesday, further damaging structures and slowing relief efforts.

Thousands of homes and other structures have already collapsed, with many more fatally compromised by the tremors. Most of the island’s infrastructure was constructed before new building codes were enacted in 1987 to require modern seismic safety standards. This includes as many as 95 percent of the island’s schools, according to a statement made by Eligio Hernandez, Puerto Rico’s education secretary.

67-year-old William Mercuchi, center, and his daughter Joan pose for photos in front of their house that collapsed after the previous day's magnitude 6.4 earthquake in Yauco, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. More than 250,000 Puerto Ricans remained without water on Wednesday and another half a million without power, which also affected telecommunications. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Classes for public schools were canceled indefinitely as officials assessed the safety of school buildings across the island. According to the New York Times, an effort to retrofit schools up to modern safety standards was enacted a decade ago but abandoned after only around 100 schools were renovated.

Many of Puerto Rico’s power plants are located along the southern region of the island most affected by the earthquake, including the Costa Sur power plant in Guayanilla that provides power for a quarter of the island and suffered heavy damage. Jose Ortiz, the CEO of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) predicted that it could take up to a year to repair the aging plant, telling CBS This Morning, “To be honest, those plants have over 60 years, basically… Imagine you have a taxi, 60 years old, and you are required to run that 24/7.”

The Trump administration declared an emergency in Puerto Rico after Tuesday’s earthquake, ostensibly allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to release funds for disaster relief. Given FEMA’s record in responding to natural disasters generally, it is unlikely that an adequate amount of funding will ever be provided to the victims of the earthquake.

Tuesday’s quake was the strongest so far in a series of tremors that have affected the island since December 28th. The epicenter of the earthquakes has been located approximately eight miles offshore of the town of Indios on the southern coast of the island. The US Geological Survey has warned that there is an 82 percent chance that another earthquake of 5.0 magnitude or higher will occur in the next week.

The impact of the earthquakes has been compounded by the fact that the island has still not recovered from Hurricane Maria in 2017, which killed 5,000 residents and destroyed much of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure. In the aftermath of that disaster, both local and federal officials sought to minimize the extent of the damage, claiming initially that only 16 people lost their lives.

The Washington Post reported on Thursday that, of the $19.9 billion appropriated by Congress in Housing and Urban Development funds for disaster relief in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, only $1.5 billion has been dispersed so far, with the Trump administration claiming they are withholding funds due to concerns about corruption on the island. This is in spite of the fact that the disaster relief bill passed by Congress mandated that $8.3 billion be made available by September 4th of last year, meaning the current withholding of funds is illegal.

The criminally inadequate response by both federal and local officials has illustrated the fact that nothing has fundamentally changed since the mass protests last year that saw the ouster of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello and his eventual replacement by current Governor Wanda Vasquez. Both are members of the New Progressive Party, which is politically aligned with the Democratic Party in the US.

Those protests, which were ignited by the release of text messages between government officials demonstrating their corruption and disdain for the victims of Hurricane Maria but ultimately inspired by the squalid living conditions and vast levels of social inequality on the island, saw the participation of up to 1 million Puerto Ricans, or nearly a third of the population.

In the aftermath of the protests, the Vasquez administration has done nothing to improve the living conditions of Puerto Rican workers. Just as with the previous government under Rossello, the primary goal of her administration has been the imposition of austerity measures upon the working class and the privatization of state-owned infrastructure to make the bogus debt payments demanded by Wall Street loan sharks.

The mechanism for enforcing these payments is the Financial Oversight Management Board created under the Obama administration and staffed by a bipartisan group of bankers, corporate lawyers and other parasites appointed by the President. Included among the measures promoted by the board is the privatization of both PREPA, the island’s publicly held electrical utility, as well as the public-school system. In July of 2018, the FOMB released a plan calling for the elimination of thousands of government jobs, the slashing of pension and benefit payments and the elimination of labor protections, among other measures.

Earthquake in Puerto Rico

This 7 January 2020 video says about itself:

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake has struck the American territory of Puerto Rico according to the United States Geological Survey.

MAGNITUDE 6.6 EARTHQUAKE ROCKS PUERTO RICO An earthquake of magnitude 6.6 struck just off Puerto Rico, the largest in a series of quakes in recent days. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no significant threat of a tsunami to the region. [Reuters]

OVER HALF OF PUERTO RICANS WITHOUT POWER More than half of Puerto Rico’s 3 million people remained without power on Wednesday after earthquakes killed at least one person and damaged about 300 homes. Thousands were sleeping outdoors, afraid more homes may collapse. Tuesday’s quakes included the most powerful one to strike the U.S. territory in 102 years. [Reuters]

From CNN today:

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake and several other strong tremors rocked Puerto Rico Tuesday morning, just one day after a 5.8 magnitude quake shook the island, according to the US Geological Survey.

Power outages and damage to homes and buildings were reported near the island’s southern coast, though the extent wasn’t immediately clear.

The 6.4 quake struck at 4:24 a.m. local time (3:24 a.m. ET), centered just off Puerto Rico’s southern coast, about 6 miles south of Indios town, the USGS said. The mayor of Guayanilla, just north of Indios, reported damage to homes and a church. There were no immediate reports of injuries, Mayor Nelson Torres said in a phone interview with CNN affiliate WAPA.

Earthquake strikes Puerto Rico, killing one and knocking out power to the island: here.

Ancient Puerto Ricans barbecued clams

This 6 September 2015 video says about itself:

Puerto Rican recipe: Stew Clams w/ Pasta


12 little clams
12 large clams
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups of tomato sauce
1 teaspoon Adobo
1 sazon packed
2 tablespoons sofrito
1 tablespoon garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves.

Topped with fresh cilantro and lemon wedges.

And, a long time before 2015 … from Cardiff University in Wales:

Barbequed clams on the menu for ancient Puerto Ricans

Analysis of fossilized shells reveals cooking habits of Caribbean civilizations over 2500 years ago

November 27, 2019

Scientists have reconstructed the cooking techniques of the early inhabitants of Puerto Rico by analysing the remains of clams.

Led by Philip Staudigel, who conducted the analysis as a graduate student at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School and is now a postdoctoral researcher at Cardiff University, the team has used new chemical analysis techniques to identify the exact cooking temperatures at which clams were cooked over 2500 years ago.

With cooking temperatures getting up to around 200oC according to the new analysis, the team believe the early Puerto Ricans were partial to a barbeque rather than boiling their food as a soup.

The study, which also involved academics from the University of Miami and Valencia College, has been published today in the journal Science Advances.

Whilst the results throw new light on the cultural practices of the first communities to arrive on the island of Puerto Rico, they also provide at least circumstantial evidence that ceramic pottery technology was not widespread during this period of history — it’s likely that this would be the only way in which the clams could have been boiled.

Lead author of the study Dr Philip Staudigel, currently at Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said: “Much of peoples’ identity draws upon on where they came from, one of the most profound expressions of this is in cooking. We learn to cook from our parents, who learned from their parents.

“In many parts of the world, written records extend back thousands of years, which often includes recipes. This is not the case in the Caribbean, as there were no written texts, except for petroglyphs. By learning more about how ancient Puerto Rican natives cooked their meals, we can relate to these long-gone peoples through their food.”

In their study, the team analysed over 20kg of fossilised clamshells at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Stable Isotope Lab, which were collected from an archaeological site in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico.

The pre-Arawak population of Puerto Rico were the first inhabitants of the island, arriving sometime before 3000 BC, and came from Central and/or South America. They existed primarily from fishing, hunting, and gathering near the mangrove swamps and coastal areas where they had settled.

The fossilised shells, dating back to around 700 BC, were cleaned and turned into a powder, which was then analysed to determine its mineralogy, as well as the abundance of specific chemical bonds in the sample.

When certain minerals are heated, the bonds between atoms in the mineral can rearrange themselves, which can then be measured in the lab. The amount of rearrangement is proportional to the temperature the mineral is heated.

This technique, known as clumped isotope geochemistry, is often used to determine the temperature an organism formed at but in this instance was used to reconstruct the temperature at which the clams were cooked.

The abundance of bonds in the powdered fossils was then compared to clams which were cooked at known temperatures, as well as uncooked modern clams collected from a nearby beach.

Results showed that that the majority of clams were heated to temperatures greater than 100°C — the boiling point of water — but no greater than 200°C. The results also revealed a disparity between the cooking temperature of different clams, which the researchers believe could be associated with a grilling technique in which the clams are heated from below, meaning the ones at the bottom were heated more than the ones at the top.

“The clams from the archaeological site appeared to be most similar to clams which had been barbequed,” continued Dr Staudigel.

“Ancient Puerto Ricans didn’t use cookbooks, at least none that lasted to the present day. The only way we have of knowing how our ancestors cooked is to study what they left behind. Here, we demonstrated that a relatively new technique can be used to learn what temperature they cooked at, which is one important detail of the cooking process.”