When he arrived in Puerto Rico yesterday, to get a first hand look at the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, Rev. Jesse Jackson called for the "massive evacuation" of sick people and students to the United States, and said that the road to recovery of the island must be based on debt relief.
The civil rights activist insisted that Puerto Ricans should be treated on the same terms as American citizens in the continental United States. And although he said that the federal government should be more "responsive" to the magnitude of the emergency, he stressed that the reconstruction of the island depends on the union of wills at all levels.
"Sick Puerto Ricans should be evacuated to hospitals in the United States ready to receive them. Those in hospitals need generators (electric) and immediate medical attention. They can not wait six months. Children need to go to school, they must be evacuated and stay with relatives in the United States, in churches, until schools reopen, "the Baptist pastor said in an interview with reporters.
"People here, as (American) citizens have the right to move from one state to another, have the right to come to the continental United States. If they can not afford it, there should be massive departures ... American citizens here should be treated as such, "he said.
Jackson, who was a vehement militant against the Navy presence in Vieques, arrived early in the morning to the island, and immediately moved to the facilities of the FedEx company on the premises of Muñiz Air Base, where a cargo of supplies –which shipment he coordinated from Chicago- arrived.
"I spoke to the governor last week, and I asked him about the needs of Puerto Ricans. He said they need generators, medicines, water and transportation, so we brought some medicine, water, and generators, "he said.
Jackson himself inspected the shipment of supplies he collected with the help of Chicago donors. The cargo contained food, water, medicine, electric generators, and some products required by citizens with particular needs, Shannon Brown, senior vice president and chief Human Resources and Diversity at FedEx, confirmed separately.
"This is a long-term challenge in Puerto Rico, but we have seen massive devastation before. The recovery plan is a combination of debt relief, long-term loans with low interest, investment and defense, "he stated.
"Crises give us an opportunity to demonstrate humanity, and give us moral authority if we do the right thing in all the world," he said.
Meeting with the governor
Jackson said he would stay in the Puerto Rico until Monday, but yesterday it was not possible to get details on his agenda. Hours after his arrival, he met for about 25 minutes with Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares at the Government's Emergency Operations Center at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in Miramar.
There, in a brief exchange with the press, Jackson again demanded the cancellation of government debt and called for the implementation of a Marshall Plan for the island similar to the initiative that the US government implemented in Western Europe after World War II .
He added that when he returns to the United States, he will promote the debate about the cancellation of Puerto Rican debt.
Regarding the Marshall Plan, he said that if the US government offered such economic assistance to its European allies it should also do so for its citizens.
Before meeting with Rosselló Nevares, Jackson went to the operations center of the Municipality of San Juan, in the Coliseo Roberto Clemente, where he met privately with mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
Pastor Wanda Rolón, who was among the twenty people who received Jackson in the vicinity of Muñiz Air Base, said that the religious leader would offer a service today, at 10:30 am, in the church La Senda Antigua, in Toa Alta.
The meeting with Jackson was also attended by directors of the entities that form part of the Alliance for Alternative Education, which will be responsible for distributing some of the supplies brought by Jackson. The alliance is made up of the Nacer Project, Nuestra Escuela (Our School), ASPIRA of Puerto Rico, the PECES Project and the Sor Isolina Ferré Centers.
Cynthia López Cabán collaborated with this story.
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