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Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Representing the 4th District of Illinois

Harvard Study on Puerto Rico Death Toll Confirms “The Response Was Completely Inadequate to the Disaster At Hand”

May 29, 2018
Press Release
“Throwing a few paper towels or enlightening people to the fact that Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by water was no substitute for treating millions of people in need with urgency, compassion, and honesty…”
Issues: 

Washington, DC – Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) released the following statement in response to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine by Harvard University researchers that estimates the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria was at least 4,645, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in American history.  Rep. Gutiérrez said (traducción a español abajo/Spanish translation below):

Hurricane Maria hit with brutal force for a full day in September 2017, but the subsequent disaster was the federal government’s response to the damage Maria caused.  The Harvard study confirms our worst nightmares, predictions and warnings at the time.  I was not the only one who knew from the beginning that there was much greater loss of life than the President, the Governor or official sources were claiming.  I heard from Puerto Rican constituents about family members who had perished and were buried or cremated before the family could make arrangements.  In the days and weeks after the storm, I met elderly, sick and disabled people who were unable to access medical care, electricity or fresh water, which put their lives in jeopardy long after the storm. 

This is an American tragedy. The response received in Puerto Rico does not compare to our response in other disaster-hit areas like Texas and Florida, thank goodness, because many lives were saved in those other places.  But the need was much, much greater in Puerto Rico and the response was completely inadequate to the disaster at hand.

Yes, the hurricane caused deaths.  That was Mother Nature, but this tragedy was multiplied by the nature of the response from the President of the United States and our government. Throwing a few paper towels or enlightening people to the fact that Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by water was no substitute for treating millions of people in need with urgency, compassion, and honesty – all of which are human traits that are beyond this President’s capacity.

Traducción a español/Spanish translation

El huracán María impactó a Puerto Rico con una fuerza inmensa durante un día entero en septiembre de 2017.  Pero la respuesta del gobierno federal al daño que causó María fue el verdadero desastre. El estudio de la Universidad de Harvard confirma nuestras peores pesadillas, predicciones y preocupaciones. No fui el único quien, desde el principio, supo que hubo más muertes que aquellas indicadas por el Presidente, por el Gobernador o por las fuentes oficiales. Muchos constituyentes puertorriqueños me contaron que tenían familiares que habían muerto y habían sido cremados y enterrados antes de que la familia pudiera llevar acabo los arreglos pertinentes. Conocí a personas de edad avanzada, personas enfermas y a personas incapacitadas en los días y semanas después de la tormenta, quienes no tenían acceso a servicios médicos, electricidad o agua potable, lo cual ponía sus vidas en riesgo después de la tormenta.

Esta es una verdadera tragedia estadounidense. La respuesta que recibió Puerto Rico no se compara a la que recibieron otras zonas afectadas por desastres como Texas y la Florida. En estos lugares donde hubo una respuesta adecuada, se salvaron muchas vidas, gracias a Dios. Sinceramente, la necesidad en Puerto Rico era más urgente y la respuesta fue completamente insuficiente para la magnitud del desastre que se encontraba la isla.

Si, el huracán causó muertes. Eso fue debido a la madre naturaleza, pero esta tragedia se multiplicó debido a la índole de la respuesta del Presidente de los Estados Unidos y nuestro gobierno. Tirar algunos rollos de papel toalla e informar a la gente que Puerto Rico es una isla rodeada de agua no fue la manera en las que millones de personas con necesidades debieron haber sido tratadas. Ellos merecían ser tratados con urgencia, con compasión y con honestidad— cualidades del ser humano que sobre pasan la capacidad de este presidente.

Rep. Gutiérrez has spearheaded relief efforts coming from the people of Chicago to the island and has helped the Mayor and others coordinate the response from the City of Chicago.  The Congressman, whose parents migrated to the United States from Puerto Rico in the 1950s, was born in Chicago and has lived in Puerto Rico at various times in his life and is currently on the island.  This is at least his ninth trip to the island since the hurricane hit on Sept. 20, 2017.  Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and is a Member of the Puerto Rico Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

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ICYMI: Rep. Gutiérrez spoke with MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin via telephone today:

MSNBC (05/29/2016): 4,645 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria, study finds

According to a study out today from Harvard at least 4,645 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria. Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez joins Craig Melvin to talk about why this number may not be as surprising to those who were on the ground. https://www.msnbc.com/craig-melvin/watch/4-645-people-died-in-puerto-rico-as-a-result-of-hurricane-maria-study-finds-1243940419924