Disaster capitalism in Puerto Rico

The pattern is familiar, corporate predators profiting from natural and other disasters.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, upscale condos and other high-profit projects replaced affected communities, mostly at the expense of the city’s most disadvantaged.

Free-wheeling capitalism works this way, profiting from mass-privatizations, deregulation, unrestricted market access, along with deep cuts in social spending to help finance plunder.

Public wealth transfers to private hands. Public debt increases exponentially. So does the disparity between super-wealth and exploited poor.

Disasters create opportunities not available otherwise—whether it’s rebuilding war-shattered cities or others affected by natural disasters.

They represent lucrative opportunities for disaster capitalism. Harsh crackdowns on nonbelievers enforce free market plunder.

Last September, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico from severe gale-force winds, storm surge and flash flooding, causing enormous damage.

Many thousands of islanders were affected. About 80% of Puerto Rico’s agriculture was lost, its power grid completely destroyed, leaving all 3.4 million residents without electricity.

Telecommunications were crippled, affecting 95% of cell networks, most land lines and Internet cables destroyed.

A meteorological report said the island was literally blown away, vast devastation replacing it.

Five months later, tens of thousands of residents still lack clean drinking water, hundreds of thousands without electricity.

In late January, Governor Ricardo Rossello announced plans to privatize the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), calling the scheme a “leap into . . . modernization.”

With it come higher electricity prices and poor service for maximum profits.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz blasted Rossello, tweeting: “The privatization of PREPA will put the economic development of the country in private hands. The authority will serve other interests.”

Rossello also intends transforming island public schools into quasi-public charter ones, a step toward privatization.

Post-Katrina disaster capitalism in New Orleans worked the same way, part of a nationwide scheme to destroy public education in America, under-performing privatized schools replacing it.

Six months after Katrina, New Orleans’ public school infrastructure was largely gutted. A new framework replaced it, run by the state as charter or for-profit schools—proper ones for poor Black children sacrificed for profit-making.

At the time, Law Professor Bill Quigley called the transformation a scheme for “haves (and) have-nots,” defined by race, Louisiana enforcing separate and unequal education for children.

Puerto Rico is following the same pattern, ignoring the welfare, rights and needs of its residents to benefit corporate predators—media scoundrels ignoring what’s going on.

Weeks earlier, FEMA ended humanitarian aid for islanders, no longer providing food, clean water and other assistance to countless thousands in need.

Humanitarian crisis conditions still affect countless numbers of Puerto Ricans months after Hurricane Maria.

Colonized and exploited by Washington since the late 19th century, islanders have no control over their lives and welfare—victimized by imperial rapaciousness.

Mass exodus to the mainland, including by the island’s best and brightest, complicated things further.

Exploited by Washington, ill-served by corrupt island officials, Puerto Rico’s poor, unemployed and most vulnerable are harmed most—no end of it in prospect.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.” Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

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