Puerto Ricans Call for Governor’s Resignation After Hurricane Maria Supplies Found in Warehouse

CNN Newsource
By CNN Newsource
January 21, 2020US News
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Puerto Ricans Call for Governor’s Resignation After Hurricane Maria Supplies Found in Warehouse
A man distributes supplies after breaking into a warehouse with supplies believed to have been from when Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 18, 2020, after a powerful earthquake hit the island. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images)

Puerto Ricans poured into the streets of San Juan on Monday calling for the resignation of Gov. Wanda Vázquez.

The protests come days after Hurricane Maria supplies were found in a warehouse over the weekend in the city of Ponce, on Puerto Rico’s southern coast. They included numerous pallets of water and other boxes with emergency supplies. The discovery took place as the U.S. territory struggles with tremors and aftershocks from a December earthquake.

Protesters were seen on Monday banging pots outside the governor’s mansion in San Juan.

Vázquez took to Twitter hoping to quell the outrage among citizens.

“I respect the constitutional right of citizens to demonstrate,” she said. “There is no need for the use of the shock force at this time.”

puerto rico
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez (C) in a press conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Dec. 18, 2019. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images)

The protests were reminiscent of what took place in Puerto Rico last summer when protesters filled the street demanding the resignation of then-Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who resigned in August.

Warehouse Supplies Distributed Monday

Officials in Puerto Rico began distributing the Hurricane Maria supplies Monday, according to Maj. Gen. José J. Reyes, the adjutant general of the Puerto Rico National Guard.

The supplies were sent to the 18 municipalities included on the White House’s disaster declaration, Reyes said.

“Most of the water here and baby formula is outdated. There are cots, camping stoves, blue tarps,” Reyes said. “The expired items will be disposed of.”

While the supplies were reported to be from Hurricane Maria, Reyes could not confirm the purpose of the supplies, saying he did not want to speculate because there was no inventory for the items.

puerto rico
A woman carries boxes of baby diapers from warehouse filled with supplies, including thousands of cases of water, believed to have been from when Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 18, 2020. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images)

Puerto Rico Will Investigate Mismanagement

Vázquez fired three officials within 24 hours of the supplies being found.

Carlos Acevedo, the director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management, was dismissed Saturday. Acevedo was replaced by Nino Correa, the governor said.

Sunday, Vázquez announced the dismissal of her secretary of family services, Glorimar Andújar, and secretary of housing, Fernando Gil-Enseñat.

Vázquez on Monday referred the investigation into the warehouse to the island’s Department of Justice.

Reyes said he does not know whether the items in the warehouse were originally intended for the victims of Hurricane Maria and was unaware the items were in the warehouse because he retired in December 2017, months after Hurricane Maria ravaged the island.

“The Puerto Rico Management Agency shouldn’t have had warehouses to store items,” Reyes said. December’s earthquake has left more than 8,000 people living in outdoor shelters in the cities of Yauco, Peñuelas, Guánica, Guayanilla, and Ponce. Some of those displaced are residents who are too afraid to return home for fear a wall or roof will collapse.

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