By Nicole Acevedo
Sixteen months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, residents like Tati Morales in the Cercadillo neighborhood of Cayey are still struggling to get reliable access to potable water, phone service and a secure home.
“We almost have no lighting in our public roads, risking accidents,” said Morales. “The infrastructure in general is still very weak — many streets in our neighborhood collapsed and they’re still like that.”
Morales said she hopes the reports that President Donald Trump could use $2.5 billion set aside to finance reconstruction projects in the island to pay for a U.S.-Mexico border wall are “really some sort of publicity and that is not going to become a reality.”
The alternative is too alarming.
“It’s barbarous and another way to hit us,” she said in Spanish. “What more can we take?”
Like other communities across the island, residents in Cercadillo have been working with nonprofits trying to rebuild before hurricane season starts this summer.
With the help of nonprofit organizations, they’re building some homes for senior citizens who lost their houses and families have invested in water tanks, generators and other necessities in order to be better prepared in the case of another disaster.
“This kind of work continues and it’s a long road,” said Morales.
More than $20 billion in federal funds has been assigned to help Puerto Rico revamp its electrical grid and home inventory, but the territory has not received most of the funds yet.
Puerto Rican officials in the U.S. and the island from both sides of the political spectrum blasted the administration over the possibility losing $2.5 billion of that allotment.
“It would be appalling for the President to take money from places like Puerto Rico that have suffered enormous catastrophes, costing thousands of American citizens’ lives, in order to pay for Donald Trump’s foolish, offensive and hateful wall,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y. in a statement. “Siphoning funding from real disasters to pay for a crisis manufactured by the President is wholly unacceptable and the American people won’t fall for it.”
Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress Jenniffer González Colón, who is also the president of the Republican Party in Puerto Rico, explicitly rejected “that game with our pain and hopes” and said she “will not support the reallocation of funds, which we approved in a bipartisan effort in Congress for the recovery and reconstruction of Puerto Rico.”
“The humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States, identified by both President Obama and President Trump, can not be resolved by removing money approved for disaster mitigation in Puerto Rico at the expense of the poorest American citizens, treated with total inequality,” González Colón said in a statement.
On Friday, González Colón threatened to resign to her position as president of the Republican Party in Puerto Rico if Trump uses funds meant to help the island to finance the border wall.
Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló said there was “no justification” for reclassifying the money.
“If anything, the conversation should be how we get more resources to rebuild those impacted areas faster,” Rosselló said via Twitter. “No wall should be funded on the pain and suffering of US citizens who have endured tragedy and loss through a natural disaster.”
For over a year, Trump and his administration have been criticized over their response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, over 200,000 Puerto Ricans left for the mainland — some temporarily — and Puerto Rico incurred about $90 billion in damages.
When Trump first visited the disaster area in Oct. 2017, he said that Puerto Rico was not a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Months later, a study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government revealed that at least 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico from the effects of Hurricane Maria — including a lack of electricity, impassable roads and a scarcity of medications and other provisions — making it the deadliest natural disaster in the U.S. in 100 years.
Trump has not yet publicly acknowledged or mourned the victims of the catastrophe following the revised figures.
Federal government offices such as FEMA acknowledged agency failures in areas such as staffing and coordination in an after-action report, while agencies like HUD allocated historic amounts of funding for the island in the area of housing, infrastructure and energy — but most of the money has not made its way to communities in need.
Velázquez and other members of Congress, including Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., vowed to fight back against any efforts to divert relief funds for the wall.
“I wish I could say this is unbelievable, but this is sadly in keeping with Donald Trump’s disregard for Puerto Rico and for Latinos. Stealing from the recovery effort to fund the wall is beyond reprehensible. As an appropriator, I’ll do everything in my power to stop it,” said Serrano on Twitter.
Brexit LIVE: 10 Tories who voted for Corbyn’s hard Brexit block – Revealed
TEN Tory MPs voted in favour of a motion to derail Brexit but the Labour-led attempt was still defeated by a majority of 11 in what was seen as a boost to Conservative leadership candidates such as Boris Johnson who plan a “deal or no deal” departure in October.
Bernie Sanders turns the tables on Trump over ‘democratic socialism’
Bernie Sanders will outline his vision of “democratic socialism” on Wednesday, explaining his view that all Americans are guaranteed certain rights, including housing, a job, a secure retirement and more, according to excerpts of the speech released by his campaign.
“We must recognize that in the 21st century, in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, economic rights are human rights,” Sanders will say, according to the excerpts of what his campaign is billing as a major address. “This is what I mean by democratic socialism.”
The Vermont independent senator will urge voters to “take the next step forward and guarantee every man, woman and child in our country” rights to health care, education, a “decent job,” affordable housing, a secure retirement and living in a “clean environment,” according to the excerpts.
Trump has repeatedly criticized Sanders for his views, labeling him as “Crazy Bernie” and inaccurately comparing his vision to the version of socialism that was put in place in trouble-plagued Venezuela.
“Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country,” Trump said at his State of the Union address in February. “America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”
Sanders will also call on voters to reject Trump’s attacks on his ideology, claiming that the president and his “fellow oligarchs” don’t “really oppose all forms of socialism.”
“They may hate democratic socialism because it benefits working people, but they absolutely love corporate socialism that enriches Trump and other billionaires,” Sanders will say, citing the Great Recession bailouts from the federal government that he said made Wall Street “big government socialists.”
Sanders’ campaign said that the speech will also call on the American people to reject Trump’s “xenophobic and authoritarian policies” and “instead complete the unfinished business of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal.”
“The speech is not just about Trump,” Sanders’ chief of staff Ari Rabin-Havt told NBC News. “There’s a collection of interests taking a bigger stand to control politics while working people feel pain and hurt. Democratic socialism is part of the answer for that.”
Sanders’ identification as a democratic socialist has ignited within the crowded field of Democrats running for president a discussion over what it means to be a socialist and whether the philosophy can coexist with capitalism.
Sanders delivered a similar speech during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, when he was battling against eventual-nominee Hillary Clinton, saying then that “real freedom must include economic security” and comparing his vision to Roosevelt’s.
Russia plans to deliver S-400 missiles to Turkey within weeks
MOSCOW — Russia said on Tuesday it plans to deliver its S-400 missile defense systems to Turkey in July, setting the clock ticking on a U.S. threat to hit Ankara with sanctions if it goes ahead with a deal that has strained ties between the NATO allies.
Turkey and the United States have sparred publicly for months over Ankara’s order for the S-400s, which are not compatible with the transatlantic alliance’s systems.
Washington has threatened to remove Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program unless it drops the deal, and has set its own deadline of July 31. If Ankara accepts delivery of the S-400s, that would trigger U.S. sanctions that could prolong Turkey’s economic recession and prompt a re-evaluation of its 67-year membership of NATO.
Turkey said that a U.S. House of Representatives’ resolution on Monday condemning the S-400 purchase and urging sanctions was unacceptably threatening.
Later on Tuesday in Moscow, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov told reporters: “The agreements reached between Russia and Turkey are being fulfilled on time in the given context. There are no bilateral problems.”
Asked if the surface-to-air missiles will be delivered in July, he said: “Yes, that’s what we plan somehow.”
The comments came days after the head of Russian state conglomerate Rostec, Sergei Chemezov, said Moscow would start delivering the S-400s to Turkey in two months. Turkish officials have said the delivery could take place as soon as June.
The U.S. resolution, introduced in May and entitled “Expressing concern for the United States-Turkey alliance,” was agreed in the House on Monday.
It urges Turkey to cancel the S-400 purchase and calls for sanctions if Ankara accepts their delivery. That, the resolution said, would undermine the U.S.-led transatlantic defense alliance.
In response, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that its foreign policy and judicial system were being maligned by “unfair” and “unfounded” allegations in the resolution.
“It is unacceptable to take decisions which do not serve to increase mutual trust, to continue to keep the language of threats and sanctions on the agenda and to set various artificial deadlines,” it added in a statement.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government faces a balancing act in its ties with the West and Russia, with which it has close energy ties and is also cooperating in neighboring Syria.
The United States is also pressuring Turkey and other nations to isolate Iran, including blocking oil exports.
U.S. officials said on Monday the training of Turkish pilots on F-35 fighter jets had come to a faster-than-expected halt at an air base in Arizona, as Ankara’s involvement was wound down over the S-400 controversy.
The United States says Turkey’s acquisition of Russia’s S-400 air defenses poses a threat to Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 stealth fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy.
“We rarely see it in foreign affairs, but this is a black and white issue. There is no middle ground. Either Mr. Erdogan cancels the Russian deal, or he doesn’t,” Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on the House floor on Monday.
“There is no future for Turkey having both Russian weapons and American F-35s. There’s no third option,” he said.
Turkey appeared set to move ahead with the S-400 purchase despite the U.S. warnings. Erdogan said last week it was “out of the question” for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow.
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