Austerity, Divestment and Irma: Juan González on Why 300,000 in Puerto Rico Are Without Power

FEMA Administrator Brock Long is traveling today to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to see firsthand the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. In Puerto Rico, 300,000 remain without power — despite the fact that the island was barely hit by the storm. Authorities have warned parts of Puerto Rico could be without electricity for up to six months, in part due to the island’s economic crisis. We speak with Juan González about how US-imposed austerity and divestment are contributing to the electricity crisis after Irma.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. The FEMA administrator, Brock Long, is traveling today to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands — he just announced this this morning — to see firsthand the damage caused by Hurricane Irma. On the island of Saint John in the Virgin Islands, 80 percent of homes have been severely damaged. Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, 300,000 people remain without power. Authorities have warned parts of Puerto Rico could be without electricity for up to six months, in part due to the island’s economic crisis.

Juan, you’ve been closely covering the situation in Puerto Rico. What does the hurricane have to do with the political crisis in Puerto Rico?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to understand that the hurricane didn’t really hit Puerto Rico head-on like it did in Cuba or even in the other Caribbean islands. It basically glanced the island. And yet, many people on the island were stunned to see the — so much electricity go down. As you mentioned, at the beginning, when the hurricane hit, about as many as a million people went without electricity, and about a third of the people lost water, because so many of the pumping stations, water pumping stations, in Puerto Rico depend on the electrical grid for their power source, so that there are hundreds of thousands of people also without water on the island.

And the reality is that the…

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