Since December twenty-eighth, upwards of 1,000 earthquakes have devastated the south side of Puerto Rico. These earthquakes destroyed hundreds of homes, leaving about 5,000 residences to live in open-air shelters. In the cities of Ponce (southern Puerto Rico) and San Juan (Puerto Rican Capital), abandon warehouses were found packed with supplies stored from hurricanes Maria and Irma, from 2017. This sparked outrage amongst those affected by the series of earthquakes, who have yet to be given proper first aid, and by the people who did not receive necessary aid during the hurricanes in 2017. Many people took to the streets to protest and demanded Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced’s resignation. Just six months before these protests, the people forced Governor Ricardo Rosselló out of office.
Puerto Rican National Guard chief Jose Reyes stated, “On Monday, ten of the towns most affected by the series of tremors received nearly 900 boxes of diapers, almost 1,400 cots, about 880 tarps and hundreds of boxes of batteries, gas stoves, and bedsheets, among other items.” All of these items that the residences received were inside of the abandon warehouses. President Trump declared a state of emergency but has not issued a personal statement.
Those who are currently attending the organized protests include, 82-year-old Iris Guardiola, who attended the protests, stated, “The people are tired of the abuse … of the lack of humanity. I am here helping those who cannot be here.” 71-year-old Carmen Velázquez said “I can’t remain sitting at home. The lies and the cheating are still going on.” René Pérez, the current organizer of the protests, expressed his wish for the people to not wait until the elections to speak out against their current government, “We’re not going to wait until November because the politicians in this country are not going to wait until November to steal. They’re going to steal starting now”
Rey Charlie, a former protest leader, who famously lead hundreds of motorcycles through the streets, opposes the most recent rebellion, “A massive demonstration like the one last year would cause great damage, damage that I think would be irreparable…you are holding up the economy, you are holding up aid supplies to victims in the southern region, you are paralyzing the country…you have to think of the consequences.” Charlie, alongside many who find the recent protests to be doing more harm than good, suggests that the best way to help is to wait until November and not re-elect Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced, who plans to run for a second term.
Vazquez stated, “We cannot allow groups with other interests to divert our attention…we’re in a moment of helping people in the south, not of creating controversy.” One day after this statement, the people carried a guillotine through the streets and placed it in front of her mansion, where they then continued the protest and demanded her resignation. The Guillotine had the Puerto Rican flag painted on the blade. Adding to the outrage, former Housing Secretary Fernando Gil Enseñat claimed that Governor Vazquez knew about the unused aid in the warehouses. Enseñat took to the radio to sate his claims about Vazquez, a translation of one of his statements, “We will not permit that nothing puts at risk the federal funds assigned to Puerto Rico that meets the needs of our people.”