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Trump waives Jones Act shipping restrictions for hurricane-battered Puerto Rico

29 September, 2017, 00:32 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • Jose A. Rivera right and his brother Jose Ramon Rivera look over their destroyed plantain crops in Yabucoa Puerto Rico on Sunday. For as far as they could see every one of the 14,000 trees was down. “There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico,”

A Rhode Island congressman took to the U.S. House floor Wednesday to implore President Donald Trump and Congress to speed up aid to Puerto Rico following last week's disastrous hurricane.

"We're thinking about that, but we have a lot of shippers and a lot of people and a lot of people who work in the shipping industry that don't want the Jones Act lifted", he said.

The Caribbean island, a USA territory, has been coping with shortages of food, drinking water, electricity and various forms of communication in recent weeks.

'Will my dad get his cancer treatment?' The lack of electricity has also hugely impacted Puerto Rico's clean water supply, and many areas now have no/very limited access.

"I can't deny that the Puerto Rico of now is different from that of a week ago". Other opponents of the law say it forces New Englanders to pay more for propane, holds up salt supplies to clear snowstorms in New Jersey and raises electricity rates in Florida.

A telephone technician tries to fix the lines in Punta Santiago, Humacao, in the east of Puerto Rico, on September 27, one week after the passage of Hurricane Maria.

But Maria knocked out the U.S. territory's entire power grid, crippling its water and sewage treatment system.

"We can use more help", Cruz said.

The Trump administration had said a waiver was not needed for Puerto Rico because there were enough USA -flagged ships available to ferry goods to the island. Many people are unable to work or run their businesses because diesel to run generators is in short supply or they can't spend all day waiting for gas to fill their auto.




"They're not giving us any information", said Castellanos, a business consultant. We are USA citizens. "We are supposed to be treated equally".

Ricardo Rossello, the island's governor, has called its devastation an unprecedented natural disaster. "It is meant to ensure we have enough fuel and commodities to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of these devastating storms".

It was the third major hurricane to affect the United States in less than a month, following Harvey in Texas and Irma, which ranked as the most powerful Atlantic storm on record before thrashing several Caribbean islands and Florida.

But the transport of relief supplies has been hampered by roads rendered impassable by fallen trees or flooding. "Right now we are dealing with a crisis, so we need Congress and we need the president to step up".

"I don't know how much worse it's going to get", Cortes said as he joined other motorists stopping on a bridge over a river in northern Puerto Rico to catch a faint cellphone signal.

The Jones Act was first passed during at the start of an era when the USA moved towards protectionism and isolationism after the First World War.

Lawmakers, including Senator John McCain of Arizona, had pushed the government to waive the Act. The act had the unintended effect of making it twice as expensive to ship things from the USA mainland to Puerto Rico as it is to ship things to other foreign parts of the world, according to Senator John McCain's office. Trucks will deliver the goods to a Delta Cargo plane scheduled to fly to Puerto Rico on Monday.

This means aid from countries such as the nearby Dominican Republic can not directly be sent to the devastated island.

In signing a 10-day waiver that covers all products being shipped to Puerto Rico, Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Elaine Duke side-stepped that controversy.

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