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BY DANIEL WILLIAMS

April 3, 2019


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Puerto Rico has received a fraction of the funds needed to recover from this.
From NPR: Fight Over Money For Puerto Rico Brings Disaster Aid Bill To A Standstill

Despite the long-standing tradition of bipartisan support for funding to support victims of natural disasters, the Republican-led Senate failed to advance two disaster aid bills because of a fight over funding for Puerto Rico. After the devastation of Hurricane Maria over a year ago, the island is still on its journey of recovery as homes continue to be rebuilt and basic services, like internet and electricity, have not yet been fully restored. But President Trump told his Republican allies in the Senate that he would not support a package that included any further aid to the Spanish-speaking US territory. Senate Democrats insist that any disaster aid bill include real assistance for Puerto Rico, but Senate Republicans, following the President’s lead, seem unwilling to negotiate.
Listen dear siblings: didn’t God choose those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kindom promised to those who love God? Yet you’ve treated the poor people shamefully! Aren’t rich people exploiting you? Aren’t they the ones who haul you into the courts and who blaspheme the noble Name by which you’ve been called? You’re acting rightly, however, if you fulfill the venerable law of the scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show favoritism, you commit sin, and the same law convicts you as transgressors. - James 2:5-9
The relationship between the mainland United States and its island territory Puerto Rico is fraught with historical and present-day imperialism, racism, and economic tension. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, nearly half of mainland Americans did not realize that Puerto Ricans are citizens of the United States.

Puerto Ricans are, indeed, citizens, but they are treated as second-class citizens in much of our political life. Residents of Puerto Rico can vote in presidential primary elections, but they have no vote when it comes to the general election. They send one delegate to Congress, but she is not entitled to vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. (Seven states send only one representative to the House; their average population is about 750,000. The population of Puerto Rico is over 3 million. Connecticut, which has a comparable population, has five representatives in the House.)

When Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast of Texas, President Trump tweeted, “My thoughts and prayers for those affected by Hurricane Harvey and the catastrophe of flooding and all of the other difficulties that they’re currently going through.” In response to the disaster in Puerto Rico, he said, “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.” He kept up the same rhetoric this week, calling the mayor of San Juan “crazed and incompetent,” misrepresenting the amount of aid Puerto Rico has received, and suggesting that sending funds to Puerto Rico “takes dollars away from our Farmers.”

President Trump’s comments pit the needs of famers recovering from flooding in majority-white states like Nebraska and Iowa against the needs of already marginalized Puerto Ricans as they recover from Hurricane Maria.

Christians are called to resist this kind of favoritism and injustice. As the writer of the Epistle of James reminds us, neither midwestern farmers nor Puerto Ricans are the problem. The same imperialism and racism that marginalized Puerto Rico in the first place continue to exacerbate the effects of Hurricane Maria and to contribute to environmental racism across the world.

Loving our Puerto Rican neighbors means ensuring they have the resources they need to recover from disaster - and challenging the powers and principalities that continue to oppress them.
Disaster profiteering is one of the ways that the effects of natural disasters like hurricanes and floods are multiplied in already marginalized communities. Educate yourself on this crucial element of the politics of disaster recovery by reading John C. Mutter's The Disaster Profiteers: How Natural Disasters Make the Rich Richer and the Poor Even Poorer.
Subversive God,
You show special love and concern for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized.
Strengthen us in our witness to your transforming power,
so that the powers of this world might reflect your radical love and mercy.
In your many holy names we pray,
Amen.
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