In the aftermath of recent hurricanes on the United States mainland, President Donald Trump’s administration has worked hard to ensure aid delivery and recovery operations ran smoothly.
Trump did so as well with Puerto Rico, a territory of the U.S. that has, like the individual states do, its own government.
However, there has been a drastic difference between how things have been handled in the mainland versus how they have been handled in Puerto Rico in regard to dealing with hurricanes. There has also been quite a bit of speculation as to why.
A raid of city government offices in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Tuesday by FBI agents probing corruption allegations, as reported by the Washington Examiner, might suggest one reason.
Here is video of the beginning of the raid. According to a Google translation, the tweet reads: “Dozens of FBI agents occupy the 15th floor of the Municipal Tower. This is how the feds arrived this morning.”
Decenas de agentes del FBI ocupan el 15to piso de la Torre Municipal. Asi llegaron esta mañana los federales. pic.twitter.com/z3h1CObwLp
— Luis Guardiola (@GuardiolaTwitt) October 16, 2018
One matter that has not been speculation has been how resources were handled after they were sent to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria, which struck the island in September and October 2017.
Many supplies were later discovered not to have been distributed to the people who needed them. In the meantime, some government officials in Puerto Rica took potshots at Trump for not helping them enough when, in fact, he did send plentiful aid.
Some say this points to utter incompetence on the part of officals there, particularly given how the administration handled Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in September 2017, Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina in September, and is handling the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, which hit mainly Florida and Georgia earlier this month.
Accusations have also flown that the “corrupt” island government intentionally mishandled aid. According to the Washington Examiner, alleged corruption of Puerto Rican government officials is exactly why the FBI just conducted its raid of San Juan’s Municipal Tower.
According to the Examiner, Carlos Osorio, the FBI spokesman for the U.S. territory, told the newspaper by phone that, “We have received allegations (city officials) have been fixing contracts, that they are falsifying documents – these having to do with federal funds because if not, we would not have any jurisdiction. They’re not directed at the mayor, but against people that work at the tower.”
The Examiner also reported that the allegations — which aren’t related to the storms — came from “a former city worker” and included charges of “tampering with purchase orders and favoritism toward certain vendors.”
According to The Hill, the raid stemmed from an ongoing investigation into “whether the mayor’s office and other city officials had shown favoritism when the city agreed to a contract with the company BR Solutions for $4.7 million over two years.”
Leonel Pereira O’Neill, the owner of the consulting firm BR Solutions, had donated to several political campaigns, including that of San Juan Mayor and vocal Trump critic Carmen Cruz, according to The Hill.
Notably, however, the raid comes just weeks after Trump criticized Puerto Rico officials for blaming him for their own failed handling of Hurricane Maria.
In a Sept. 24 radio interview with Geraldo Rivera, Trump called Cruz’s handling of supplies “disgraceful” and noted that the island’s electrical infrastructure was a “disaster” for years prior to him taking office — and yet he was blamed for the lengthy power outage that followed the hurricane.
Listen to the part of the interview here. It’s worth hearing.
If corruption is identified by the FBI, it is natural to wonder how much further the corruption has gone and how much deeper the investigation will go. If it is found, the claims of corruption playing a role in the mishandling of hurricane aid will certainly be rekindled.
Several news outlets, including the Washington Examiner, have reported that translations of Cruz’s tweets following the raid pledge “total collaboration” and that “If someone has done something wrong, they must be subjected to due process and face the consequences of their actions.”
This is not the first time the FBI has conducted raids in Puerto Rico related to corruption. In 2014 the bureau raided the Doral Bank, Fox News reported at the time, because, “Prominent New Jersey banker Maurice Spagnoletti was gunned down in Puerto Rico and his widow, Marisa, has accused bank officials of conspiring to kill him for uncovering alleged fraud at the Puerto Rico-based institution.”
— #voice (@mituvoice) December 23, 2014
In 2016, Caribbean Business reported that the FBI raided offices in the city of Toa Baja’s government center. The newspaper noted that “federal sources” had said the “investigation is related to alleged financial crimes and public corruption.”
The pattern of FBI raids related to corruption does not bode well for the people of Puerto Rico. Corruption might be worse than any property damage a storm could ever cause.
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