If you’d forgotten about the utter incompetence of Puerto Rican officialdom in the face of disaster, an intrepid man with a Facebook Live stream has reminded the world of it.
Now, Puerto Ricans have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of their governor.
The scandal spans two separate disasters that overwhelmed the government in San Juan.
The first was Hurricane Maria back in 2017, a storm which resulted in catastrophic damage to the island and a back-and-forth between Puerto Rican officials and the Trump administration.
At the time, many criticized Puerto Rico for its slow response, particularly when it came to the distribution of emergency relief supplies.
The second disaster involved a series of earthquakes that have hit the island in the past several weeks, with many Puerto Ricans sleeping outside for fear their houses will collapse.
Again, residents say their government officials have let them down.
It wasn’t until “El León Fiscalizador” went live Saturday on Facebook that they knew how deeply they’d been let down, however.
“El León Fiscalizador” — “the lion of accountability” — is the nom de social media of Lorenzo Delgado Torres, according to The New York Times.
In the video, Torres is seen entering a warehouse in Ponce on the southern side of the island. Inside the warehouse are pallets of bottled water, diapers, portable stoves, baby formula and other necessities, all undistributed and all from Hurricane Maria over 2 years ago.
“Share what you’re about to see,” Torres said in the video.
Plenty of people did.
For those curious, here’s the unabridged stream originally posted on Facebook Live.
It’s nearly two hours long, and I’m pretty sure you have better things to do than sit through even a fraction of the entire thing, but a quick glance should give you an idea of what infuriated residents:
The video had almost 850,000 views and nearly 34,000 shares as of Tuesday.
Torres said that the water appeared to be expired. However, in regard to the other less-perishable supplies, there didn’t appear to be anyone around to distribute them.
According to CNN, Carlos Acevedo, former director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management, said the water in the warehouse was among 80 pallets left behind after roughly 600 pallets were distributed during the run-up to Hurricane Dorian and Tropical Storm Karen last year, as well as during a 2019 drought.
The water was there, he said, because it was expired.
Acevedo defended the Office of Emergency Management on Twitter in the wake of the video’s release, saying that there hadn’t been any lack of supplies to hand out to quake victims.
The Times later reported that many of the supplies were distributed on Monday.
As you may have noticed, however, Acevedo is now the former director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management.
He was fired by Gov. Wanda Vázquez within hours of the video being uploaded, with two other cabinet officials getting the ax by Sunday.
She’s since handed over control of the Office of Emergency Management to the National Guard.
Vázquez, according to CBS News’ David Begnaud, initially ordered a speedy investigation into why the aid wasn’t distributed.
However, she’s backtracked and said the investigation will be helmed by the island’s new attorney general and will remain confidential.
Puerto Rico’s Governor, who used to be Attorney General, ordered an investigation done within 48hrs into aid that wasn’t distributed to people in need. Now, she says the findings are confidential & will be investigated by the new AG. People want to know preliminary findings now.
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) January 21, 2020
Part of the problem is that Vázquez herself may end up being the next individual out of a job, as protesters in San Juan are demanding her resignation.
Protest in front of Puerto Rico Governor’s mansion:
Under a mock FEMA tarp, protesters remember the 4,645 Puerto Ricans who died during & after Hurricane Maria.
Now they say: “The only govt job? Distribute the supplies. What did they do? They hid them & let us die” 📷: @elbujosaa pic.twitter.com/odxlzMVIGd
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) January 21, 2020
“This is an act of pure evil, to hold back supplies,” protester Orlando Rivera, 21, told The Times on Monday. “It’s like watching someone dying in front of you and not helping them.”
“We are outraged,” Freyla Rivas, 70, of Cayey, said as she protested outside the governor’s mansion. “If there are resources, why do the people have to suffer? It’s enraging.”
According to CNN, protesters were banging pots outside the governor’s mansion in scenes that “were reminiscent of what took place in Puerto Rico last summer when protesters filled the street demanding the resignation of then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who resigned in August.”
“I respect the constitutional right of citizens to demonstrate,” Vázquez said on Twitter. “There is no need for the use of the shock force at this time.”