FBI looking into reports that Puerto Rican politicians withholding hurricane aid

The FBI in Puerto Rico is looking into numerous reports that politicians in some areas are withholding hurricane relief from residents who need it and giving it to cronies and supporters.

Daily Caller:

"People call us and tell us some misappropriation of some goods and supplies by supposedly politicians, not necessarily mayors, but people that work for the mayors in certain towns," FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio told The Daily Caller Wednesday.

Osorio explained, "They're supposedly withholding these goods and these supplies and instead of handing them out to people who really need them, [there are claims] that [local officials] are assigning them to their buddies first – people that have voted for them or people that contributed to their campaigns or what not."

He added, "So what we're doing is looking into these allegations. That I can tell you is happening. Again, I cannot say that we have any ongoing investigation. We're just corroborating these allegations."

According to Osorio, there are claims that despite delivery of hurricane relief by FEMA, assisted by other federal officials like the FBI to town centers, for example, local officials will first distribute the relief to their political allies once federal officials leave the area.

"We'll distribute the [goods and supplies] because we have to follow certain protocols, and that's what [local officials] said they were doing, when they were waiting for federal officials to leave, and the allegations are they are handing [relief] out through back doors and stuff like that to their buddies," Osorio stated.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, when asked by The Daily Caller about the allegations being made about FEMA aid being withheld by local officials, responded, "I can only tell you that the governor [Ricardo Rosselló] is in charge. I've asked the federal officials. They keep saying under the Stafford Act the governor is in charge."

Another member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, New York Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat told TheDC, "Well, anybody that engages in that kind of action whether civilian or representative should be looked at seriously because that's unforgivable."

As of now, the FBI is aware of six municipalities among Puerto Rico's 78 municipalities where such activity is allegedly happening. The U.S. federal prosecutor on the island, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez, announced on WAPA radio last Sunday she is looking into these claims and is ready to criminally prosecute any official who withholds relief. 

We should remember that although Puerto Rico is part of the United States, it more closely resembles a third-world country than the U.S.  Its transportation infrastructure – substandard before the storm – was nearly wiped out by Maria.  This led to at least 10,000 shipping containers piling up on the San Juan docks in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Distribution problems persist.  Local authorities have done an adequate job in clearing roads so truckers can get through, but some remote areas are still unreachable except by air.  As one might expect in a major relief operation like this, there are bottlenecks and gaps in supplying relief.

But this is something else altogether.  I can't recall ever hearing of a problem like this in the U.S. after a storm, largely because FEMA and other government watchdogs make sure it doesn't.  But island residents report that once the supplies are delivered and FEMA moves on, some local officials ignore the rules about distributing aid and use relief supplies as a political weapon.

You would hope the FBI gets to the bottom of this and prosecutes anyone who plays games with supplying food and water to hungry and thirsty people.  Puerto Rico will be a long time recovering from this disaster, and it won't get any better if crooked officials are allowed to get away with this.

The FBI in Puerto Rico is looking into numerous reports that politicians in some areas are withholding hurricane relief from residents who need it and giving it to cronies and supporters.

Daily Caller:

"People call us and tell us some misappropriation of some goods and supplies by supposedly politicians, not necessarily mayors, but people that work for the mayors in certain towns," FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio told The Daily Caller Wednesday.

Osorio explained, "They're supposedly withholding these goods and these supplies and instead of handing them out to people who really need them, [there are claims] that [local officials] are assigning them to their buddies first – people that have voted for them or people that contributed to their campaigns or what not."

He added, "So what we're doing is looking into these allegations. That I can tell you is happening. Again, I cannot say that we have any ongoing investigation. We're just corroborating these allegations."

According to Osorio, there are claims that despite delivery of hurricane relief by FEMA, assisted by other federal officials like the FBI to town centers, for example, local officials will first distribute the relief to their political allies once federal officials leave the area.

"We'll distribute the [goods and supplies] because we have to follow certain protocols, and that's what [local officials] said they were doing, when they were waiting for federal officials to leave, and the allegations are they are handing [relief] out through back doors and stuff like that to their buddies," Osorio stated.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, when asked by The Daily Caller about the allegations being made about FEMA aid being withheld by local officials, responded, "I can only tell you that the governor [Ricardo Rosselló] is in charge. I've asked the federal officials. They keep saying under the Stafford Act the governor is in charge."

Another member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, New York Democratic Rep. Adriano Espaillat told TheDC, "Well, anybody that engages in that kind of action whether civilian or representative should be looked at seriously because that's unforgivable."

As of now, the FBI is aware of six municipalities among Puerto Rico's 78 municipalities where such activity is allegedly happening. The U.S. federal prosecutor on the island, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez, announced on WAPA radio last Sunday she is looking into these claims and is ready to criminally prosecute any official who withholds relief. 

We should remember that although Puerto Rico is part of the United States, it more closely resembles a third-world country than the U.S.  Its transportation infrastructure – substandard before the storm – was nearly wiped out by Maria.  This led to at least 10,000 shipping containers piling up on the San Juan docks in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Distribution problems persist.  Local authorities have done an adequate job in clearing roads so truckers can get through, but some remote areas are still unreachable except by air.  As one might expect in a major relief operation like this, there are bottlenecks and gaps in supplying relief.

But this is something else altogether.  I can't recall ever hearing of a problem like this in the U.S. after a storm, largely because FEMA and other government watchdogs make sure it doesn't.  But island residents report that once the supplies are delivered and FEMA moves on, some local officials ignore the rules about distributing aid and use relief supplies as a political weapon.

You would hope the FBI gets to the bottom of this and prosecutes anyone who plays games with supplying food and water to hungry and thirsty people.  Puerto Rico will be a long time recovering from this disaster, and it won't get any better if crooked officials are allowed to get away with this.

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