Call for action: Ask Pres. Trump to suspend the Jones Act.

UPDATE 9/28/17

Trump temporarily lifts Jones Act to bolster Puerto Rico relief
THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT

While the NFL self-destroys, there are 3.5 million Americans who have more immediate concerns: The ones living in Puerto Rico.

Seven days after Hurricane Maria, most of the island has no electricity, no running water, no internet. Cell phone communications  are going through the US military satellites, since the towers are gone. The storm destroyed airport radar systems. Most roads look like this,

Roads in the mountain areas are worse yet, due to landslides.

Not that you can drive too far, since gasoline can not be delivered to gas stations.

A Facebook friend’s sister described,

our town doesn’t look like a hurricane came through, it looks like a fire burned everything down.

In another town, my grandfather’s house is still standing, roof, doors and windows blown out for the first time in its 100-yr history.

Navy and Marine Corps are working around-the-clock to reopen airfields and clear debris from the main roads of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Thousands of relatives and friends are sending help, among them the rapper Pit Bull, who is sending a private jet to transport cancer patients to the States for treatment – as soon as the airports are functioning.

The governor, Ricardo Roselló, thanked the Trump administration for their prompt response, Patrick Poole lists,

  • Six commercial barges transported and delivered meals, water, generators, cots, and other commodities to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • An air bridge is established, flying three flights per day to St. Croix, each carrying approximately 33,000 meals.
  • The logistics support ship SS Wright arrived carrying more than 1.1 million meals, and nearly one million liters of freshwater.
  • Two shipping barges with 1.2 million liters of water, 31 generators, and more than 6,000 cots arrived in St. Thomas.
  • Two additional shipping barges loaded with food, water, and emergency relief supplies are en route to the Caribbean Sea from Florida.
  • Millions of additional meals are being flown to Puerto Rico from staging areas in Kentucky and Florida.
  • The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is transporting a shipment of 124,000 gallons of diesel fuel to Puerto Rico, with arrival in the coming days.

In the very short term, the best thing the Trump administration can do is to waive the Jones Act (a.k.a. Merchant Marine Act of 1920).

The law requires that goods transported between U.S. ports be shipped on vessels built, majority-owned and manned by Americans. Think of it as a legally sanctioned shakedown for U.S. shipping interests.

Puerto Ricans pay dearly for this protectionism, which reduces competition and raises costs. A 2012 Federal Reserve Bank of New York report said the Jones Act helps explain why household and commercial goods cost roughly double to ship from the East Coast to Puerto Rico than to the nearby Dominican Republic or Jamaica. Food and energy costs are far higher than on the mainland.

The Act has been suspended after Hurricane Katrina, superstorm Sandy, and after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; but, outrageously,

the Department of Homeland Security said Monday it won’t issue a Jones Act waiver for the territory. Spokesman David Lapan explained in an email that there are “sufficient numbers of US-flagged vessels to move commodities to Puerto Rico.” DHS argues that under U.S. law the agency can’t ask for a waiver unless there’s a national defense threat and there aren’t enough Jones Act-compliant ships to carry goods.

Pres. Trump is visiting PR next Tuesday. I urge you to call the White House at Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414, and email, right now urging the President to suspend the Jones Act during this emergency.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog