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Yup. Allegations, the judge cabinet is one of the finest people that I've ever known finest people that I've ever known. Brad Kavanagh has a reputation as being a prince of a man frankly than this, but come on. This is a good, decent person. I feel for this this man's daughters. Does anyone really believe this story would have surfaced if Brett Cabnol- had pledged allegiance to ruby weight? Of course it wouldn't have this all has the whiff of a political smear masquerading as a sexual assault allegation. He was offensively an attempted political assassination of a character. Should that deny chances later in life even for a supreme court job of presidency of the United States or you name it? How accountable are we for highschool actions when this is clearly disputable high school action? What happens Georgetown prep stays at Georgetown prep? That's been a good thing for all of us. This is intercepted. I'm Jeremy Scahill coming from the offices of the intercept to New York City, and this is episode sixty six of intercepted. Fantastic. Helping the governor's an excellent guy, and he's very happy with the. We have put billions of billions of dollars, Puerto Rico, and it was a very tough one. Don't forget, electric plant was dead before the hurricane. This week marks the one year at Serie of hurricane Maria ravaging Puerto Rico. We still do not know the exact death toll. In fact, it's continuing to rise, but it does appear at this point to be between three and five thousand people. Donald Trump, of course, now infamously disputes that and he has in fact praised himself for how he had a Puerto Rico. We've got a lot of receptivity a lot of things for the job we've done in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico Trump is rightly being derided attacked blasted for both his atrocious response or lack thereof to the hurricane year ago, and also his continued inaccurate, offensive inhumane public pronouncements. But I have to say. It does a great disservice to the people of Puerto Rico to place all of the focus on Trump and his administration. When we look at who is responsible for this death and destruction. The reality is that u. s. colonialist history in Puerto Rico, the laws that the United States has imposed on this island nation and the ravenous Wall Street vultures that have descended at different times on Puerto Rico. All of these forces and factors have played a major role in this catastrophe. The disaster in Puerto Rico would certainly not just the result of the power of the hurricanes and extreme weather. It was also man made it is in large part the result of colonialist policies even before hurricanes, Maria and Irma hit Puerto Rico. There was a major crisis that was largely caused by impeach. Purell policies set in Washington combined with a vicious, liberal economic attack aimed at looting Puerto Rico, and it's people. This is a story that is actually hundreds of years in the making. It involves Christopher Columbus, the Spanish empire, the Spanish American war, the US invasion of Puerto Rico, the illegal annexation of Puerto Rico, the revolutionary struggle for independence and the violent crushing of those efforts. Today, we're going to dig deep into the history of Puerto Rico and of those who have profited from its colonial status and continue to profit from disasters. Both natural and manufactured. Puerto Ricans are, of course US citizens. Puerto Rico has a governor, but in reality, Puerto Rico is today ruled by a board, a board appointed by the president of the United States. It's and made up overwhelmingly of non Puerto Ricans. This has been the reality since twenty sixteen when Barack Obama signed into law. The promise act at stands for the Puerto Rico, oversight management and economic stability act through some amazing work by our treasury department, our legislative staff and bipartisan effort in both the house and the Senate finally have legislation that at least is going to get Puerto Rico, the capacity the opportunity to get out from under this lingering uncertainty with respect to their debt to start stabilizing government services. In the start rolling. Again, that law created this small council of political appointees, who would take charge of restructuring, Puerto Rico's debt, which all things considered. It's massive. It's one hundred and twenty billion dollars. What this affectively means is that this political board of non Puerto Ricans is making decisions and setting policies that the people of Puerto Rico have no voice in whatsoever by the time promise, oh, was signed into law. Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis was already exploding, Puerto Rico owes more than seventy billion dollars in debt and more than fifty billion dollars in unfunded pensions on orders from Washington. The Puerto Rican government slashed funding for healthcare and public transportation services more than thirty thousand public sector workers were fired and a hundred schools closed later in the show we're going to be joined by my intercept colleague, Naomi Klein, she's done some groundbreaking reporting from Puerto Rico over the past year. She also has a new book out about Puerto Rico. But first we turn to journalist one Gonzales. He is the former new York, Daily News columnist. And still the co host of democracy. Now, one was born in Ponce Puerto Rico, but he grew up in the United States as a young man. One was a leader of the young lords, a revolutionary political movement with similarities to the Black Panthers want eventually became a journalist, and then for many, many years wrote a weekly column. He is one of the foremost scholars on the history of Puerto Rico. It's battles for independence as well as its current political, economic and social realities. One is the author of many books among them harvest of empire, a history of Latinos in America roll down your window, stories of forgotten America, and most recently reclaiming Gotham build the blouse oh, and the movement to end America's tale of two cities. One is currently a professor of journalism at Rutgers University in New Jersey. One Gonzalez welcome back to intercept did. Oh, my pleasure to be here, Jeremy. I want to deep dive into Puerto Rico's. History with you, but I want to start with some of the latest developments. Of course, it's the tenth anniversary of the financial crisis. Its the one year anniversary of the hurricane hitting Puerto Rico and something that's gotten no attention. I haven't seen it is that a report was issued last month. The final report of what we can loosely call the Puerto Rico, financial control board. This was set up by promise, which is the Puerto Rico oversight management and economic stability act. I wanna talk about the results of that report and the findings of it, but I explain promise and who this board is, who appointed it, what it does in Puerto Rico, the LA junta, and it is now essentially the political body in charge of legal. They're still governor. They're still a legislature, but no act of that governor or the legislature, no budget, no spending. Can be done without the approval of the board. And in fact, the board is constantly battled with the governor. Just recently just told the governor that a whole bunch of his budget proposals are not acceptable. So that aboard is essentially an outside control board that congress set up to run Puerto Rico's to essentially deal with the debt crisis and supposedly put Puerto Rico back on his on affirmative and I'm footing however, it is deeply unpopular. It's made up mostly of appointees from the United States, and it is dictating the future of echo and is also negotiating with the bondholders over the seventy three billion dollars in on debt that is still hanging over the people of what and control boards expenses are completely paid by the government of Puerto Rico. By act of congress forgo must accept a control boat Emma's pay for it. What's the point then of Puerto Rico, having a governor or any form of government. That's that's the problem. It's all. This stage, they're all puppets because no one can do anything. They're micro managing every part of the economy. They are the ones that have essentially ordered that the electric company of Puerto Rico be privatized. They are the ones that are ordering that all Christmas bonuses of employees of the government beat done away with. They're the ones that are ordering the cuts in the pension funds for all retirees. Government, your ties there essentially addicted Oriel body in charge of what the eagles finances. It ended forever. The myth that Puerto Rico is a self governing territory of the United States. Did this have bipartisan support when it passed in two thousand sixteen? He s did. Unfortunately, there were quite a few Democrats who believe that this was the only way to assure some kind of resolution of Puerto Rico's financial crisis. Because at the time, Puerto Rico had no ability to declare bankruptcy because it's power to declare bankruptcy was eliminated by congress in nineteen Eighty-four and a special legislation. So that the government was faced with the fact that it was bankrupt but could not officially go to court and have a judge decide who gets paid what in the van crops proceedings. So what did do one positive aspect is that a did create a form of ANC city that Puerto Rico could use, which it now is using to deal with the bondholders. However, it put an outside board in charge of that charge of negotiating the methods of how what are we would get out of bankruptcy now, just a couple of weeks ago on August twentieth the financial control board released a six hundred page report that purported to investigate the impact and root causes of the financial crisis. As it affected Puerto Rico, you've been poring over this six hundred page report. What does it say? What's your of it? Well, it's fascinating. The report was issued by an outside firm, an investigative firm Kohlberg and Kim, that control board paid. Three million dollars for this investigation. Supposedly, the goal was to figure out how the hell that Puerto Rico ever get in the shape that it was with so much debt who was responsible, whether any things that would illegally or unethically how to get into this much. At what point? What year are we talking about? The bulk of the debt, the seventy three billion that was contract it from about two thousand and four to two thousand eighteen. There was there was a good sized debt before that, but it wasn't anywhere near it exploded really after two thousand six, which was when the real economic recession in Hickel developed, it's the island has been for ten years now economic decline. This is against the backdrop of scores of lawsuits by holders, claiming that other kinds of bonds are illegal, but they never should have been issued in the first place. So there's all this litigation in the bankruptcy. Tsy court now in the federal court and bought a Rico, basically, China sort out who's in line who's the first in line who's a second line, who's a third in line for whatever money was going to pay out bondholder. And I actually believe in reading the report, it was more aim to provide the bondholders a sort of a map of where they could possibly file lawsuits in which lawsuits my have more credence than to actually get to the root of the problem. Explain how the crisis was created in your research investigation in my research. And interestingly, the early part of the report which deals with the history of Puerto Rico's economic relations with the United States backs up. A lot of what's already been known. One is the point that he'd go had a structural problem, financial problem as a result of policies adopted by congress over many decades. For example, Medicaid reimbursements Puerto Ricans US citizens, but congress for decades now has capped how much money. What hit go can get from the federal government for Medicaid reimbursement compared to all other states, what he'd go gets far less money in Medicaid reimbursements than even the poorest state in the union Mississippi. Even though the income levels in Puerto Rico, a dramatically less the Mississippi that has meant that the Puerto Rico government to provide health insurance for the poor has to have much more money spent than would be spent by any other states every single federal program that's available to the other states has always been capped at a far lesser level by the congress. That's one example. The other example, of course is a Jones act, which is the shipping laws that mean that anything imported into Puerto Rico costs more because it must be on a US flagship and a US made ship with US crew. So that costs about five hundred million dollars a year extra cost to the people of Puerto Rico for the shipping laws when the fire. Problem got really bad after the tax exemption for a lot of corporations was removed into thousand six. I'm sorry, nineteen, Ninety-six, but then it phased out two thousand six. That's when all the manufacturer started leaving Puerto Rico, and then the crisis got even worse and the government just could not meet its bills. So what do we find this report states that about forty, six billion dollars in debt that Puerto Rico contract over several years was actually just money borrowed to pay back past debts, seventy percent of the forty six billion was money borrowed to pay previous bonds. It wasn't to do anything new important Rico, build anything new. It was like, you know, you borrow money to pay your credit card. You know, that's what it was. The Puerto Rico government faced with the structural problems created by its colonial relationship was desperate for money. And Wall Street, say will try all these instruments. You know, we'll we'll lend you money to pay us back. Who are the players from Wall Street that were city group Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, all the major players, brothers were the ones Lehman Brothers where the ones who actually kept coming up with new esoteric financial instruments for the heat go to sow what was essentially a structural problem created by congress and how are they doing this? They were, were they lobbying in Puerto they what? They, what they did is, for instance, a Lehman Brothers is great creation, Puerto Rico's constitution limits the amount of money that you can borrow any. This is true of any state of municipalities. Your binding capacity is usually based on the value of your property. So Leman brothers came up with the idea. Let's create a sales tax before two thousand six. Puerto Rico had no sales tax, and then we're going to earmark. A portion of the sales tax to securitise new bonds that won't be counted as part of your overall government borrowing capacity because it's a whole new. It's a revenue bond securitized by the sales tax today. The sales tax in Puerto Rico is eleven point, five percent, a huge portion of it just set aside to pay the bondholders the new bonds that were created, which call the sales tax revenue bonds or co FINA. So they just created a whole new instrument. Lehman brother, of course, even brothers was doing this in two thousand six and seven, and we all know where Leman brothers went in two thousand eight and because of these kind of shady operations. And then Leman brothers came up with the idea of also doing what's called capital appreciation bonds. What's a coupla appreciation bond. You borrow- eighty five million dollars in two thousand and seven. For forty nine years. You pay no principle. You pay no interest. So for forty nine years, the eighty five million dollars you borrow. You don't pay anything on. At the end of the forty nine years, though the interest has been accumulating on top of the original principle after forty nine years. You all one point. One billion dollars on eighty five million dollars at you. Originally borrow that is a complete payday loan for governments. You borrow money today that you don't pay for fifty years. But at the end of the fifty years, the amount that you everyone knows you won't be able to pay when Lehman Brothers would come in with ideas like this, where are they making their money? They're making their money's originally on the fees for putting together the deal fees for the lawyers, their fees for the underwriters, so they get their fees upfront. So the more bonds you issue, the more money was re mix. And if you're issuing a new bond to pay off the old one, they made money on the original one of their making money on the new one. So they make money off the top on their fees, all of this in the report. However, and here's. The amazing thing. Why believe the entire reports whitewash congress gave to the promise aboard, subpoena power to do an investigation of the finances of Puerto Rico. The report knowledge is we had subpoena power. However, we chose to do everything with voluntary interviews. They interviewed over one hundred twenty people as part of the report with no transcripts. So the interviewed all these people, and then they didn't take minutes of their interviews today. Interview the people from Goldman says, others, the Puerto Rican government. They interviewed people from the business people. They interviewed bondholders. They interviewed the issuers and everybody who was involved no transcript Notre grips, nobody under oath. So basically it was on a voluntary basis what you come to tell us and there was no actual investigation using the subpoena power that they had. Let me give you one example of why the subpoena power would have been important. According to the Puerto Rico, government, people that were interviewed by this investigation group. Goldman Sachs was essentially trolling the halls of the Puerto Rico legislature trying to convince the elected officials to do what's called credit swaps on their bonds. That's this is another esoteric. It's like collateralized debt obligations. Credit swaps is when a city or public entity borrows whole lot of money at a variable interest rate, but then they wanna make sure that the interest rates go up. They don't have to pay more so they doing arrangement of bet with the counterparty that the counterparty will assume the money if interest rates go up. Well, what happened? So out the two thousands interest rates kept going down. So all of these swaps that Goldman Sachs was pushing ended up being a gravy train for Wall Street. Puerto Rico. Paid according to this report over one billion dollars in termination fees on bad credit. Default swaps billion dollars. Now, Goldman was going around everywhere trying to sell the swamps and even offering money up front. A one point they told the Puerto Rico government. If you'll do this credit swap, we'll give eighty million dollars off the bat. Another time that went and said, if you'll do this credit. So I will give you a hundred million dollars in cash upfront. This investigation clearly says, Goldman Sachs was actively peddling this. So let me read to you what the report says about when they interview Goldman Sachs official. This is not again there's not under oath. This is just an interview quote. We interviewed the lead banker on Goldman's Puerto Rico team in two thousand five who was identified by officials in the government and contemporaneous documents as having proposed legislation advocated for the swaps when. We asked this senior Goldman investment banker if he was involved in drafting or commenting on the two thousand five legislation, he told us he did not recall. We also asked him if someone on his team would have been designated to comment on or the draft legislation, he told us he did not recall when we asked the senior golden investment banker about the geo basis swap specifically, she told us he did not recall the specifics of any swap transaction and cooling wear an issue or received up front money as part of a swap and did not recall any pitches Goldman made in connection with swaps. So Goldman does not recall anything about what they were doing in Puerto Rico to peddle this suspect debt. They just basically did a voluntary interview situation here with all of these people, and they didn't use a subpoena power that congress gave them. That tells me that they didn't want to find out what was legal and what was not legal about how. The debt in Puerto Rico ballooned to the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. I'm sure I am anyone listening knows the answer to this, but was anyone held accountable sanctioned anything for these actions in Puerto Rico over this period describing well, UBS was held criminally liable for peddling specific type of bond to people in Puerto Rico, there were many Puerto Rican retirees who ended up losing all of their savings because UBS was pushing them all into a certain group of funds that they were going to benefit from. There's been many several fines levied against UBS for its activities, but it's only on the portion of the huge debt that they sold to Puerto Ricans. Not that they've sold all across the United States, and that's in every every major municipal bond fund in the country that no one's been held accountable for. So how did Puerto Rico's economy then implode how. Did this impact the bankruptcy of Puerto Rico? Well, in the state it was in happened. What simply happened was that for more than a decade? Puerto Rico's budget was in huge deficits, and the way the government kept running. The government is borrow more money, barring more money to pay off the pass bondholders and to paper over the debt. Eventually, the debt became unsustainable because it the Puerto Rico, not only seventy three billion dollars to bondholders. It owes forty, nine billion dollars in unfunded pensions to its current and a retired government workers. So the total is north of one hundred twenty two billion dollars. That is the total debt of Puerto Rico. Right now I'm twenty two billion. You put that in context of Detroit, which was a largest previous bankruptcy in American history. Detroit was eighteen billion for. One hundred twenty three billion total debt. It's a magnitude of financial collapse that's never been seen before in American government history. How did all of this impact the state Puerto Rico was in when hurricane Maria hit and the subsequent deaths and lack of any true rebuilding of the infrastructure by the US government Puerto Rico. Well, clearly the fact that the island had been for so long, basically putting bandaids on everything of it. They had no money to really spend meant that the electrical system was in disrepair. The water system had not had major investments. And so as a result, when the hurricane hit, the physical infrastructure of the of the island was paralyzed, not only paralyzed, but then took over almost a year for everyone to get electric city back the Puerto Rican government since wasn't paying its bills. Nobody wanted to do business with them. Nobody wanted to sign contracts with them because they said, well, how can we sign a contract with you how you haven't paid anybody else how we're going to get paid? So they had a problem being able to respond -ffective -ly because there were essentially bankrupt at the time. What I feel is the wrong narrative is that Puerto Rico brought this on self that is not accurate. The reality is even this report recognizes that there were structural problems as direct result of US colonial policy in Puerto Rico that created a structural imbalance that had to be remedied Wall Street, stepped in with garbage debt to paper it over for ten or fifteen years. But sooner or later, it was going to become evident that the economic model of Puerto Rico that congress has created and controls is not sustainable for the people of the island. And again, I mean this, this isn't just Trump administration policy. This is US government policy and approach. Toward Puerto Rico for quite a long time in eighteen ninety eight. The United States officially invades Puerto Rico. What was the mindset at that point of the US government toward Puerto Rico, obviously Spanish American war. What Hickel was not really the main prize of the Spanish. American war was really Cuba and Philippines. The difference is that the others, the Philippines was eventually allowed its independence as a result of a long Carrillo to longer will awards and what remained the United States territory possession throughout most of the twentieth century, the governors of the echo were Americans appointed by the president eighteen ninety eight till nineteen forty, six. They're all Banglore. American governors appointed directly by the president to run the island by the period of the Roosevelt administration, they began to realize this was going out of fashion just I recognize control. So in nineteen forty, six, they appoint. Did the first Puerto Rican governor his soup and yet, oh, and then in nineteen forty eight, they allowed Puerto Ricans to elect their own. Strategic island climaxes, half a century as American territory with the inauguration of the first governor elected by the people of Rico. In San Juan, chief Justice, administers the oath to governor to Eastman yours. Martin who's Popular Democratic Party won a sweeping victory. Last November. It is an all governor on your smart inhales, the islands you democracy where Pederick Rico's people may within the smallness of their territory, realize the greatness of their destiny. But then in nineteen fifty two in the wake of the creation of the United Nations, it became a real international Barent to the United States that it was still holding a colonial territory. So they then worked with when you're smiling to establish a new compact which was called the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, which was created in nineteen fifty two that was supposedly granting the people of Puerto Rico, self government. So then the disguise form of colonialism was created, which is the Commonwealth where the Puerto Rican people supposedly had self government. But all of the acts that created the Commonwealth made it patently clear that Puerto Rico was still a territory of the United States, which in the words of the supreme court in the insular decisions belongs to, but is not a part of the United States for was still colonial subjects that. The ideal of the Commonwealth as a form of voluntary union with the United States persisted from nineteen fifty two until the creation of promise for nine hundred twenty six to twenty sixteen. The world was led to believe that Puerto Ricans had freely chosen their relationship of Commonwealth to the United States. The United States exercises complete sovereignty over Puerto Rico. That means Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States is subject to the whim of congress. And so congress exercised that whim when they created the financial control board to oversee the island and now it stuck with a mess that its own policies created and most members of congress don't even want to be bothered with Puerto Rico. However, the financial crisis on the island has gotten so big that it's threatens the viability of the municipal bond market of the United States. So therefore Wall Street wants us Aleutian. Wall Street is afraid that if Puerto Rico is allowed to get out mall on this debt than any state will start trying to get out from under its debt, Illinois or any of these other states that are huge debt made, then try to use the precedent of Puerto Rico to get out from under its bonded. So the colonial situation of Puerto Rico created the problem. But congress has no wilt to end. The colony Wall Street is demanding a solution, but the solution that they want is to crush the Puerto Rican people even more. And so you have all of these forces trying to press their agenda and no clear solution incite given this history that you're describing, why do you believe that? Puerto Rican independence wasn't a Cheever. I mean, you have you have remarkable fierce resistance in the modern history of Puerto Rico, particularly after the US invades and then creates these legal structures that you're talking about. You had amazing figures pay. Be so composts and Filiberto halo Rios and attacks on the US congress and attempt to kill president. Truman, nationalist uprising in Puerto Rico in the western news is linked with the attempt on president Truman's life. Two of them attempted to assassinate president. Truman in Blair House when he is staying joining repairs to the White House approaching from direction, they opened fire on the police car on the president's how to attend to wounded. God's one of whom has died while traces oughta moved. Maybe it's lane that, but let's sort of fierce resistance, but also why it never succeeded. Why I think the Puerto Rico, independence movement never succeeded because Puerto Rico was a colony of the most powerful country in the world. And as a result, even as a colony, it got better treatment than the colonies of France and England than India Pakistan or or Jiri o or whatever because it became a colony when the United States was a rising empire in the world. The economic level of its people was generally higher than those of other colonial peoples because the United States, especially after the Cuban revolution. Was deathly afraid that the idea of the revolution was spread throughout Latin America. What Hickel was needed as an example of another way, you know an example of capitalism succeeding. So the United States invested heavily in making Puerto Rico, a comfortable colony, a less obvious exploitation. In addition to that, the Lewis muddying Popular Party was a social Democratic Party. Many of the programs that he develop, especially with FDR's last governor and Puerto Rico. Rexburg tugwell was clear socialist war to create state on industries. That's why you have a state owned electric company. That's why you have stayed on water company. That's why you had stayed on government development Bank. There was a lot of new deal, Tennessee valley authority type programs that Magno mighty implemented, importer Rico that meant that the people felt that the government was. East addressing their economic needs. And so an essence them when you're spotting social democracy, co-opted a lot of the fervor of the independence movement and addition to the massive repression of the independence movement in the nineteen fifties. It was illegal. To fly a Puerto Rican flag in Puerto Rico, you could be arrested for flying Puerto Rican flag. You could be arrested for advocating for independence. There was a complete repression of the independence movement in Puerto Rico in nineteen fifties. So all of that means that the independence movement gradually waned. In addition, increasingly, as more and more people try to come to the United States. The fact that Puerto Ricans had US citizenship meant that they had easy entry back and forth into the United States. Look at all the people that come to the US at a undocumented Puerto Ricans come to the US and their document of the moment they step in. They don't have to worry about that. So US citizenship is like a Trump citizenship in the world. If you have it, you're treated differently. So Puerto Ricans re realized that there were certain benefits to the colony. And so they gradually adapted to the conditions. However, here's the problem. All of that said. What still a separate country. It's a territory of the United States, but it's still a separate country because it's an island because it has always spoken Spanish and therefore has a complete linguistic and cultural difference. So how do you reconcile that. With being part of the United States, how can go become a state every state that's been admitted to the union. By the time it became state was a majority or a plurality of white angles, including Hawaii and including Alaska, which were the last two to come into the union. The settlers went out into the territories settled them and then petition for statehood. That's how states became states. The Anglos never settled Puerto Rico. One hundred eighteen years later, ninety percent of the people are still Spanish speaking. So Americans never settled Puerto Rico. Therefore, Puerto Rico never changed his culture and its language and its traditions. So therefore you have the problem. That Puertas part of the United States, but it's completely different from the United States. That's the unsolvable issue that congress has to deal with and that the Puerto Rican people have to deal with well, one dollars. Thanks so much for sharing all of the history analysis, particularly also have the latest developments, their preciado. Thanks for joining us again intercepted. Thank you. Want guns. All is a veteran journalist born in Puerto Rico, longtime columnist at the new York, Daily News still the co host of democracy. Now after, say, all of one's books and journalism are great, but do make sure to check out harvest of empire, a history of Latinos in America. One is currently a professor of journalism at Rutgers University. As we all know last month, the death toll in Puerto Rico, made it back into the news after an official report asserted that nearly three thousand Puerto Ricans had died as a result of hurricanes, Maria and Irma and their aftermath last week, it became a media flashpoint when Trump falsely tweeted the following three thousand people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island after the storm had hit, they had anywhere from six to eighteen deaths as time went by. It did not go up by much. Then a longtime later, they started to report really large numbers like three thousand Donald Trump went on to tweet quote. This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising billions of dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. Notice how he says I was raising these billions of dollars as though he's not president. He's just running a private company and he's doing some charity anyway. Then. In the FEMA administrator Brock long made the rounds on the Sunday shows this past weekend to defend Trump. You know, the other thing that goes on, there's all kinds of studies on this that we take a look at. Specil abuse goes through the roof. You can't blame spousal abuse after disaster on anybody. Puerto Rico's governor formerly updated the death toll from the hurricanes to two thousand nine hundred seventy five people in August after multiple news outlets and universities demonstrated that thousands of people died during the days and weeks after the hurricanes a Harvard study. Meanwhile estimates that the death poll is likely closer to five thousand people in response to Trump's tweets and accusations. San Juan mayor Carmen crews had this to say, President Trump continues to be on his high horse and does not realize than states that were made and he doesn't take care of them. He never got it was never about politics is always. About saving lives. See him. This is about positioning himself as a great save your well. You know, he is before hurricanes Irma and Maria hit Puerto Rico. It was already in the midst of another disaster as a result of the massive debt. We talked about earlier, these neoliberal economic policies imposed by Washington. Puerto Rico was on a path to privatize public assets already, having privatized airports and highway toll system. Puerto Rico was already in a state of shock. When these record-breaking hurricanes hit. The island joining me now is Naomi Klein. She is of course the author of the shock doctrine, the rise of disaster capitalism. Naomi also has a new book out on Puerto Rico called the battle for paradise. Puerto Rico takes on the disaster capitalists. Naomi has also recently been appointed the inaugural Gloria Steinem chair of media culture and feminine. Studies at Rutgers University. Naomi, welcome back to intercepted. Thanks, Jeremy. It's great to be with you also nice to have you here in person. Yeah, it's actually the first time we've done this person. I want to dig deep into talking about Puerto Rico, not just Trump's comments, but an overall view of what's happening right now in Puerto Rico. But before we talk about hurricane, Maria, I I wanted to ask you about the financial crisis that Puerto Rico was in prior to all of this and Puerto Rico owed more than seventy seven zero billion dollars in debt and had more than fifty billion dollars in unfunded pensions. How was the Puerto Rican government and the state of Puerto Rico? What condition was it in prior to hurricane Maria regarding these issues? Well, that's really critical question. It has a lot to do with these much debated numbers about the deaths post Maria. You know, whether we're talking about the three thousand figure of the five thousand. Later because the vast majority of those deaths had a huge amount to do with failing public infrastructure and the failing public infrastructure in Puerto Rico had everything to do with his economic war that was being waged on Puerto Rico. Well, before hurricane, Maria, you know, it's tough to know when to to begin this story, right? I mean, you you could begin at five hundred years ago. You could begin. You know, the story when the US took over from the Spanish in Puerto Rico. But for the sake of argument, let's begin with the most recent economic crisis in Puerto Rico, which two thousand six when a series of tax breaks that had lured American companies, they had been phased out and they were finally phased out in two thousand and six. And so you head capital flight and the government of Puerto Rico has been shut down after it, ran out of money, following a dispute between lawmakers and the island's governor. Puerto Rico, sixteen hundred state schools have been shut, leaving half a million students and forty thousand teacher. With no classes. Nearly one hundred thousand government workers have been temporary left without jobs, two thousand six. And then that's a significant year because it is right before the global financial crisis. So Puerto Rico suffered this one, two punch where their economy started crashing before the world economy started crashing. But of course they were impacted by the world economy crashing. So that's when you have this debt crisis that you referred to the debt exploding. When you say that there was this economic war against Puerto Rico prior to this and we're talking right now about two thousand six, some of the significant events that who were the perpetrators or the aggressors and what were they seeking. I've written a lot in the past about how economic shocks crises are so often exploited, not to fix the underlying reason behind the economic crisis, not to create a actual sustainable economy that is going to serve the interests of the people who live there, but distant, very opportunistic way. You use the economic crisis to push through the the wishlist of policies that rear their head and have their head through the whole neoliberal period dating back to the nineteen seventies. So it's privatization of public assets and the prophets that flow from private players getting control over previously public. Monopoly other attacks on on the public sector opening up to private players. You know, all of it deregulation, privatization of economic austerity. So that's what happened in Puerto Rico. They had an economic crisis, much like Greece had an economic crisis after after the financial crisis and much like in Greece in. Puerto Rico. It was exploited in very opportunistic ways not to deliver a healthy Connie for Puerto Ricans, but for for other people to profit. And so this really culminated in the creation of the financial oversight board where Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans really lost control over their economy, and the governing structure was all about paying Puerto Rico's debtors rather than serving the interests of Puerto Ricans and in the name of fiscal responsibility and paying off their creditors. This brutal authority program was introduced, and that has a huge amount to do with why Puerto Rico was as vulnerable to these dual hurricanes because it wasn't just Maria was also Irma why they're public infrastructure was brittle as it was right. And so you know when Trump says, it's not all my fall, you know, these aren't deaths that were just from the wind and the waves he in a way. Okay. I don't want this. We take out of context, but it is true that the. Responsibility for these deaths cannot just, you know, be put on the Trump administration. And indeed it is by partisan like so much else. It was Obama and congress pre Trump that created the financial oversight board that impose this regime of brutal economic austerity on Puerto Rico entirely bipartisan project that Obama signed off on and you know what we see now with Florence, you know, just this week and what we saw last year with hurricane Harvey and in Houston is just how important it is for there to be a functioning public sphere when it is tested by these record-breaking storms, right? You know whether nine one one is working the way it should be working, whether first responders, you know, have the resources that they need. And in so many cases they don't. But in Puerto Rico, it was so much worse and it was so much worse because of the stained economic. Salt. And the reason for that is not about the corruption of Puerto Rico's local elites, which is, you know what we often hear in the analysis here it has everything to do with colonialism. Things were done in Puerto Rico after the financial crisis that were not done in the mainland who are the greatest beneficiaries of the way that the Trump administration handled Puerto Rico and the greatest beneficiaries of the fact that this massive hurricane did so much destruction. You talked earlier about, you know how I mean, I remember reading this in the shock doctrine. The this notion that has been popularized by the Neo cons that history ultimately will be written by the people who are able to seize the moment of crisis and realize that that's the moment to push through your agenda. So who's who's benefiting from the hurricane and the way that the administration responded? Yeah, I I was thinking about that when Trump used this phrase the unsung the unsung success in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rico was incredible unsung. Success, Texas. We have been given a pluses for Florida. We've been given a pluses for, I think it is certainly the best job we did was Puerto Rico, but nobody would understand that. Well, you know, I think there are corners of Wall Street where there they'll be singing the praises of what the Trump administration has done for many years to come because they are benefiting precisely from the failure, right? Because it creates its own logic. Give you an example around 'electricity. There started to be talk of privatizing Puerto Rico's 'electricity grid before Maria even made landfall. You started to see speculation in the business press that you know, this was clearly going to good mean this would be the moment to to privatize pretty was already in the midst of a pretty classic experience of what I call the shock doctrine before, right using the economic crisis to push through this agenda privatization and deregulation in steady before Maria hit there. There was a lot of pushback. And so it was already on the agenda of the financial oversight board wouldn't Puerto Rico's called the junta to privatize the electrical system to cut the budget of the university of Puerto Rico and half to close down an additional three hundred schools, but they were facing resistance. On the May Day before hurricane Maria hit in September. There was the second largest protests in Puerto Rico, and it was against steady. I think it was a couple hundred thousand people on the streets saying no to the junta calling for CEOs, resignation saying, the debt is illegitimate that the debt needs to be audited. And saying no, to a steady. You had a student strike at the university of Puerto Rico that lasted for almost three months that shut down the university against precisely this type of steady. And then Maria hits hurricane, Maria, rip through Puerto Rico, making landfall as a category, four, four king with winds of up to one hundred and fifty five miles per hour, and all of these ideas come roaring back with vengeance. So in the case of Katrina, you know what you and I both covered. They came up with the plan right after in a. In Puerto Rico, it's even more insidious because the plan was literally already there. The plan was the playbook of the financial oversight board. They had been able to do a lot of it, but they hadn't been able to do all of it. So they didn't even need to do any more planning because they had it all ready to go. And they just pushed through in this moment where most people on the islands still don't have electronically. So while this mass displacement is going on, you have these same ideas. The the secretary of education announces, there's going to be a closure of three hundred schools that's in addition to, you know, a recent closure of, I think one hundred sixty five schools. It's extrordinary and it's just the most blatant exploitation of peoples, emotional trauma, and the fact that they are in the state of emergency and it's so hard to fight back under these circumstances that said, Puerto Ricans are fighting back. I mean, the Puerto Rican teachers have gone on strike, you know, have been in the streets opposing plans to privatize their the education system. We know that there's been communication between New Orleans and the Puerto. Secretary of education about how New Orleans went about pushing through an unprecedented privatization, programme of education in the aftermath of Katrina. Same thing's happening in Puerto Rico. The introduced a law to open up the school system to charter schools. Puerto Ricans have resisted this up until this point, but in this moment of trauma and emergency, they were able to get that through what's happening with the public utilities in Puerto Rico. So the people who stand to profit the most are people who would be getting a piece of Puerto Rico's public for structure. Puerto Rico has a huge publicly owned 'electricity utility. That though it has a huge debt still makes money. And so it looks like it's going to be auctioned off in various pieces that the public will be stuck with the debt. Puerto Ricans. We'll be stuck with the debt, but the profitable pieces of their utility will be sold off to private players. So they'll be making money there. The whole charter school industry, which Betsy DeVos is intimately connected to their. Descending on Puerto Rico. There's other pieces of public infrastructure that it looks like are going to be sold off highways. The ferry between bec s and the mainland and and then there's this other piece of it, which is, you know, we've heard about a lot of at around the crypto currency guys, right? But there is also this other realm of profiteering going on that has to do with tax evasion which has to do with so-called high net worth individuals that are moving to Puerto Rico because the Puerto Rican government was offering as an incentive to relocate your primary residence. Relocate the address of your hedge fund of your business to Puerto Rico, and then you don't pay capital gains tax. Don't pay text on dividends interest. I mean, it's the whole ballgame. So if you are financial speculator of some kind and all you need is access to data. It's a pretty sweet deal and you only have to stay there for how. How many days of the year is it's basically winter, you know, is this the kind of series of events or moment in history where you think it would? I'm talking about your sense. I'm not asking you to speak for all of Puerto Rico. Do you have a sense that it's going to impact people's views one way or the other on independence. You know, a lot of people in Puerto Rico, talk about Maria as this sort of unveiling that unveiled a lot of pre existing crises. And this is true, and so many ways, including the poverty that was already there. The winds just ripped the roof off of houses and and what people saw was just how poor their neighbors were and how precarious their lives were. But there's no doubt that one of the things that was unveiled in Trump's paper towel throwing and continuing onto his denial of the deaths is just a complete disdain with which the US government Tris Puerto Ricans and the fact that they are not, you know, considered by by any means US citizens are not treated like US citizens. So I think there are different interests in Puerto Rico that are latching onto that. I do know that I heard a lot of talk when I was there about the importance of sovereignty. But not just political sovereignty in the way. This debate is usually or traditionally debated of just sovereignty being seen as something that you achieve through a strictly political fight. And that just has to do with national boundaries like whether you're you are your own independent nation that being sovereignty. It's a much more complex and deeper kind of sovereignty that I heard a lot of Puerto Ricans talking about, and a lot of Puerto Ricans who I think identify with movement for independence. And so I think there's an understanding that in this moment in history with such an interconnected economy and such an interconnected ecology, right? I mean, Maria it like we have to talk about climate change, but we're talking about these storms and that you know the pollution, one part of the world plays out as floodwaters rising and super typhoons and unprecedented storms in another part of the world rights. What sovereignty mean in that. 'texts. So some of the most interesting political work, and this is the work that we're supporting with the with the book with with battle paradise and all of the royalties going to this coalition of groups call twin, defend. They, this is sixty groups that have come together to come up with a really coherent political program that will bring suffering t- to Puerto Ricans, but not just not just political independence like it isn't. It isn't framed as a fight for political independence. It's framed as as a fight for true sovereignty. Right. So what does it mean to have independence for their food to to never, again, find that on this incredibly fertile island, there's no food to eat because you're getting, you know, ninety percent of your food imported through a single port, and that port is knocked out by one storm. And suddenly there's no food, right or most of the crops are being grown for export and their monocrop all gets wiped out. Right also energy sovereignty, right. I mean, if you are getting your power through these power plants in the south of the island, there being pumped, you know, carried through these wires that were knocked down by Maria. That's a much more precarious than if you're getting your power from solar solar panels. You know, in a micro. Grid and a community. And then if somebody loses their, you know their roof in the storm, you can get power from somebody else in the micro grid. And if the whole grid goes down, you can unplug from the grid and you have that resiliency. So what I think is most interesting about the way in which Puerto Ricans are responding politically is in this deeper definition of sovereignty. It's not a severing from that long fight for independence. I wouldn't say that at all, but it is something new. And I think really, really exciting that learns from the experience of having been abandoned in the way that that Puerto Ricans have been. One of the things that I think has escaped attention as as people have rightly been focused on Trump, denying the deaths of Puerto Ricans is this formulation of Trump and his surrogates coming forward and saying, you know, Trump's at I raised billions of dollars for Puerto Rico, and you know his surrogates saying Trump rebuilt Puerto Rico, and there's this formulation where it somehow like Trump personally did this. It's really the first time I've seen disaster response and rebuilding being framed as sort of Noblesse OBE Liege of like the monarchic, you know leader, it is setting up this. I think increasingly transparent idea that you don't have an inherent right as as a human being to be saved. Right? You know, I think we're starting to see erosion of a rights framework in the context of disasters, and it's becoming frame. As a privilege. Trump's position on NAFTA and other so-called free trade agreements and the way that he's using tariffs as kind of cudgel in his at least in his public pronouncements about how he's going to deal with all sorts of big businesses. I wanna ask you a very simple question that probably doesn't have a simple answer. Would Trump's position if it's fully implemented, be better for workers in the United States and around the world than the existing framework that has been in place since the early nineteen ninety s under Bill Clinton. He ran attacking the agreements and saying, I'm going to get a better deal, you know, and put America first there. That's not actually trade plant, what it allowed was for people to project their desires onto that blank slate, right? But if you look at who he appointed, it was always clear who's interests he. He was going to be fighting for and it's not, you know, the interest of workers. No, I actually think that Trump and his administration could actually come up with worst deals for workers left. You know, left to their own devices. I don't think there's any it. I don't think it's a given that just by renegotiating these deals just by opening them up, we end up with something better. No, I don't. But I, I do think this is this is something that progressives need to look very hard at right. Because this used to be terrain for progresses. This used to be terrain where you had really large muscular mass movements responding to corporate free trade and putting forward alternatives and being very vocal and very out there. And those movements have gradually been contracting. Those coalitions have broken apart. And one of the most interesting parts of that movement, they were international movements, right? They were coalitions across borders, and that kind of international organizing is something that the left really doesn't have right now, not anything as organized and and there's the beginning of a rekindling of left internationalism and there's more discussion of it and Yoenis for our focus is talking about it, and I was glad to see. I think the DNC is sort of gradually stepping into that talking about democratic socialists of America that at this point now, the most prominent person that that everyone will have heard of now. Has out Sandra Cossio Cortez. But again, that institution that organization's been around for decades. But as part of the richocheting fact of the Sanders campaign started getting a lot more attention being paid to it, but but they've been around for quite a long time, but there's the sort of rebirth in the last couple of years. But I think there is an urgent need for this resurgent left movement including its electoral expressions to sail lot more about foreign policy, including economic foreign policy and to rebuild some of these alliances across borders. Because if we don't, then these right wing populace and fascists step into that space, and that has happened in the US with Trump. It happened in France with and pen. If you look at what mounting, the pen, how what she ran on in France and what she'll run on again, it is, you know, anti-globalization it is the worker left behind and it's what supremacy, you know, that's that's the brutal cocktail and same thing with Brexit, right. It was that combination of, you know, the failure of economic liberalization mixed with racism instead of phobia and stir. Right? So this territory cannot be seated by the left. It's always tempting to focus on the sort of the the issues closest to home. But I think there's tremendous danger in in seeding the terrain of internationalism to the right. I mean, absolutely. And yes, when you when you look on the left, like no one is going to say that they oppose single payer health care or that they want socialized medicine. I mean that that is a firm position when it comes to fights to increase the mid to save stuff talk about. Oh, yeah, yeah. And the safe stuff right now there's has changed, right? Good, right? I mean, yeah, used to be well, of course, we're all against the war, you know, talking about the Iraq war. Well, now, first of all, there's a, there's many wars going on when you talk about the militaristic wars, and there's big debate on the left about those wars. Which again, I think is a good thing that there's actual debate, but I don't see how you how you can run electoral campaigns that challenge this sort of entrenched two party system. When you're going to have a kind of cannibalistic. Mob, you know that eats it self alive at the expense of fighting the actual villains in society when I sort of zoom out and think about what has happened to discourse on the left and the fact that so much of the discussion is happening in these miniscule little dispatches on Twitter, Facebook, as opposed to deeper dives than I don't want to romanticize the pre social media discourse. It wasn't perfect by any means. But when you combine that with the fact that these structures are owned in control by six guys who are getting richer than we could have ever imagined right, that we're losing control of our intellectual property at the same time as we are feeding this new oligarchy class, you know, there's just not nearly enough discussion about our own participation in building systems. GMs that are ultimately, you know, I see it as this is the final capitalist enclosure. You know, it began with the enclosures of the Commons of the land and the the buying and selling bodies in the first stage of capitalism. And you know, we've been talking about the stage of neoliberalism which is about privatizing state assets, but we are living and participating in and not debating nearly enough is the privatization of our very selves, the commodification of our relationships, right, and of our movements because our movements are living in these spaces that are owned and controlled by, you know, Mark Zuckerberg and you know, our movements are worth more than just handing ourselves up. So willingly climbed. Thanks so much for joining us great to talk with Jeremy. Mayo me client is an award winning journalist. She is my colleague at the intercept. She's also the author of several books her latest, the battle for paradise, Puerto Rico. Takes the disaster capitalists was published by Haymarket books in cooperation with the intercept. We should note that all of the royalties for that book, the battle of paradise go to hunt the Hent, a network of organisations fighting for solidarity and sustainable, Puerto Rico visit who the heck Fe dot org for more details. That's j. u. n. t. e. g. e. n. t. dot org. We're gonna end today's show with the Puerto Rican artist Ileana Mercedes Kabre, Hogue LA better known as away. When she was just sixteen years old, the Anna became part of the internationally renown and celebrated group today sick, which was led by her two older brothers, but a and Edward. Oh. Back then Ileana wrapped under the moniker PG thirteen, a nod to her young age. But after ten years with today, say Yana decided that it was time to give it a shot on her own I, there was the name change. She would be known as away from now on and her first album. As a solo artist, eleven -able, which was a contemporary take on classic bolero and salsa songs. Some of which were penned by her own grandmother earned her a Grammy twenty seventeen. Me. This. Now a year later allays back in the studio as a new song share, it's called Odio the Spanish word for hate the music video. For that song is an incredible portrayal of a dark event in Puerto Rico's history. The Sarel motto via massacre will hear from LA in a moment about the story of the murder of two pro independence, students at the hands of police and the subsequent cover-up of their deaths with the help of the US government. I should say there's been a rich history of resistance against colonialism in Puerto Rico, and at various points there have been militant independence movements, the indigenous people, the titan, no fought Spanish colonialists repeatedly. And when the US illegally annexed, Puerto Rico, the rebellions continued. The US basically turn Puerto Rico into a plantation for major agribusiness used its territory for military maneuvers and bomb testing, and at times even. Made it illegal to wave a Puerto Rican flag independent Teesta 's tried to assassinate president Truman. They launched an armed attack in the US congress. And eventually there were multiple guerrilla resistance groups that had taken up arms against the US government and military in the name of Puerto Rican independence. The US, of course, waged its own dirty wars against these independence, leaders and groups. But overwhelmingly, Washington has used economic and political weapons to maintain Puerto Rico's colonial status. The question of independence is a complicated debate in Puerto Rico to this day, but our guest is clear where she stands. She's explicit in her support for an independent Puerto Rico here is allays story. My name is my artistic name. Ella. And I'm from Puerto Rico. On a. And grew up here, big family and the little one they called me sponge because I have soared a lot of things from them from my parents ideals to the musical tastes. I remember waking up every time listening to music salsa. Singers, like actor level. When they get it at east from the no minicam reportedly. I remember when I was leader, I love to imitate things that I hear people seeing. And one day my brother beat me up from school and and he said, I want you to seeing something. Then I'm doing my other brother and he put me in the car and I say, we'll do this course like Christina Aguilera. Do this Lopez accusing. And these no dude like yourself. And as I don't know how to do like myself, I, I don't know how to sing, say, do find a way. So that's when the song lie, what owner that was his own, that he was showing me. Yes. I know a lot of people expected that was going to wrap because of my rather music. But I've always felt like that was my brother's project, and I've always loved is is areas and IVA was love, especially women in in songs. So for me was important to express myself through this music that I feel so identified with. And it's part of who I am and where I come from, I won't. M. Because we've tried so hard to transform music and and do something new. We start forgetting about our roots and our musical history. I. But it has been a lot of things is in our history clashes in Puerto Rico. Twenty-three killed fifteen of them. Policemen trouble broke out, agitators launched attacks, but he stations and other public buildings there. The island has virtual self-government hotheads want to sever all connection with the medical. We have the bone say massacre we had live repeal has massacre. What about our. So in nineteen seventy eight settlement VW came the most famous one because it was a cover up from the government particu but will as the government of the United States. Basically the story was these two young students from the university of record. All eighteen year old Carlos pseudo where the two who were killed. They belong to a radical group called the arm Revolutionary Movement, which wanted independence for pride Areco rather than the Commonwealth status. It has. Now as suddenly mid also young guy. He was like twenty years old. He's studying in school, but CNC wanted to be policemen. They said, okay, well, you can do this. Man was gone all his mom avai police undercover agent who had infiltrated the group and led Rosado and Soto to the ambush. They actually so that this guy was good guy. July twenty fifth nineteen seventy eight, Mark the eightieth anniversary of the US invasion of Rico. And so two Rosetto came up here to this mountaintop called Sarah via where the transmission towers of a local television station are located. Supposedly, we're going to burn a communication towers just to make us statement like, oh, we want freedom for a country. But instead of bombs there knapsack contained barbecue starters matches and these homemade handcuffs. Hope police goop knew everything so he was making, I'm Bush. And when they arrived there, the policemen started to shoot and they started shooting. Rico, Justice department, and the governor plame the two alleged terrorists had been shot by police in self defense. The only time for the police was to kill independence because it by that time, the government was the state would political party for Puerto Rican Senate concluded the two had been executed, and that the facts in the case had been kept from the public in a massive cover-up by government agencies in Frederico. They also claim that the US Justice department, including the FBI went along with the cover up three investigations were they will covered all of those investigations came to the same conclusion. Rosado and soda were terrorists who had planned to blow up the communications dowers. They had attacked the police who then killed them in self defense, everything that goes owning, put the Rico. The United States has to do with the US Justice department. Didn't I ten. Policeman in the shooting of resign and Soto, but only after the truth of the killings and the cover up were disclosed in the Senate hearing, and those indictments were for perjury. The important thing. That's how hate was involved here inside these policemen and how they hate made them do these violent horrible things. Yeah. We import Rico are leaving so much humiliation since being colonie of the United States and being a colony for so many years. We've never had a moment where we were free country. It has been decades of a load of abuse and so much abused that we start believing and we start believing that we are capable and believe that we, we are not worthy and we need someone else to be ourselves. Now, eight to tell you Puerto Rico, you thrown our budget a little out of wack because we've spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico and that's fine. We saved a lot of lives. If you look at the I, I leave the whole hurricane, Maria. I wasn't there in my house and it was observing everything on the changes that people talking that people reacting to wake up every morning. Wondering what can I do now? Where can I go? Who needs food who needs water. Who needs a solar energy, what can we do to make a? So these cannot happen again or he always these having again, what can we do to help our help ourselves? And it's something hard to do, but it's not impossible is, oh, I hope he becomes an independent country. I think that younger people in Puerto Rico are more conscious than my generation that he's still young, but that makes me feel hopeful. These song, I hope he's a way to make people at least question. What should we do with ourselves and dried sweat least find ways to help each other. Goodness me that is almost. But they. Was a sucker seem Vicky cease. Conoco these sleepless to lead the eighty per that and go see employees in me. Okay. Level. Okay, level jet one. See them. With us, let acquainted. This with blood Mito is. The NFL. Yana. That was the Puerto Rican artist LA. She spoke to our producer tech Doro. That doesn't for this week show. One note next week we're going to be having a special guest on no Chomsky. You're not gonna wanna miss that. If you're not yet a sustaining member of intercepted, log onto the intercept dot com slash join intercepted is production of first look media and the intercept distributed by panoply. Our producer Jack as Dorrell and our executive producer is Lee tall. Melodic Laura Flynn is associate producer, at least Swain is our assistant producer and graphic designer requ on mixed. The show, our music as always was composed by DJ spooky until next week. I'm Jeremy Scahill.
Intercepted with Jeremy Scahill
Aired 2 months ago 33:43
327- A Year in the Dark
The ninety nine percent invisible. I'm Katie mingle filling in for Roman Mars. In the early morning of September. Twentieth. 2017 a category. Four hurricane hit the island Puerto Rico hurricane Maria slamming into the island, and as you heard one officials saying the island is destroyed the first category. Four storm just strike Puerto Rico in eighty five years. Power lines are down streets are impassable. Many roads are flooded. Maria was a beast of a hurricane the strongest one hit the islands since nineteen thirty two. The wind was blowing one hundred fifty five miles an hour, which is very close to being category. Five and it didn't just hit one stretch of the coast actually, moved across the whole island, ripping up everything in its path brush everywhere. Trees down power lines down. Obviously everywhere, you know, the entire island in the dark. That's done yell other cone, he spent some time reporting in Puerto Rico after the storm and wrote an article about it for wired magazine, the next morning people wake up they go out of their houses their apartments, they look out onto the streets to survey the damage and and start trying to to make sense of what they're seeing in front of them. You know? And one of the people out there that day driving around in a state of utter shock was a guy named hor. Hey bracero. God lease. That's from a video that we're hey took the day after the storm. He's from the capital city of San Juan. And he told me he was just totally caught off guard by how bad the storm was really became obviously known for everybody around that we were in deep trouble. But it wasn't for a few days when they actually made it into work that he fully grasped the scale of the crisis. He works at prepa, which stands for Puerto Rican electric power authority. It's the public utility that provides electricity for nearly the entire island. I actually arrive at the power plant. I noticed that. I was one of the few that actually made it because most people live inland when he gets there. He makes his way over to the big computer screen that shows the outline of Puerto Rico and inside of that a bunch of lines kind of like a big connect the dots with each line representing power line and every blinking lying. It means a downed power lying in. The whole island was blinking. Every single line was down everything the line in the island was down. And the had never happened before. The trajectory of Maria was almost as if it had been designed by an evil genius. The way it cut across the island such that it is actually struck. Every major transmission line. The scale of the destruction to the power grid was hard even for Hebrew Sarah to comprehend and he knew that day that he would spend the next several months, helping Puerto Rico recover through his work with prepa. What he didn't know yet was the thousands of people would come to count on him specifically him to help them get through their year in the dark. Neighbor, Sarah is one of those people who you can tell you're gonna like just by seeing picture of him. He's in his late thirties with short Brown hair and beard, and he just looks like a nice guy. I think it's something about his eyes Donyell. Our cone describes him as the light fully nerdy. He's a guy who will sit and explain to you. How an electrical grid works and continue to explain it in minute detail. Even after it's clear that you can no longer understand what he's talking about. What has worked for prep for thirteen years and his job? There is a grueling one. He's responsible for operating to fifteen story tall boilers. These boilers are heated by twenty giant burners that or hey also looks after and so he's constantly hiking up and down the stairs. That service the different parts of this. Massively tall equipment. It's extremely hot. Every day. You just smelling petrol and diesel, and it's extremely exhausting. Sometimes you just hate it. When Maria hit or he and his wife, Charlotte rode out the storm at her family's house. They weren't hurt, but they were surrounded by devastation, and they found out some release. Sad news, Charlotte's best friend who was pregnant had gone into stress induced early labor the day. The storm hit and lost the baby. This was particularly frightening to them because Charlotte was also pregnant it was the most the most tense I've ever been in my life. What if Charlotte also went into early labor or what if the baby was born? But couldn't survive the post Maria world with no electricity and temperatures routinely in the nineties because when you sleep at night that heat was Soham bearable. I'm serious dead them out of heat in the air was so so brutal. That you would think, you know. I'm just going to get naked outside because I can't contain the STAN heat. So I'm thinking newborn cancer vibe this where he even considered trying to get his wife off the island, but a month bring that they don't allow you to fly. After the storm or hey in Charlotte bounced from place to place staying with friends who had generators at home or he fretted over his wife and the baby who is coming ready or not in November. At work. Things were even more stressful. The first priority was to get power to hospitals in water treatment plants where Hayes power plant was one of seven major plants on the island, but all of the others were down, and without those to help his kept crashing over and over again because you know, the the it would connect as many hospitals. I've we can. But it just wouldn't hold it where he described this like tug of war the power plants are on one side and their giants. But the consumers are on the other side, and they pull hard if one power plant goes down, the others will have to work harder, and they get tired sometimes to the point of collapse after Maria. There was only one giant power plant on Jorges side of the rope. And on the other side, hospitals and water treatment plants, which were pulling like crazy every time. There's a collapsed you have to reboot everything gin, eight hours of work just when down the drain and you have to restart from step one with just one plant that was con. Instantly. Collapsing. They had to triage. I only have one power plant that just got fired up, and I only have enough powerful one of those two hospitals right there out in the field. Things weren't any better lines were down all over the island. And there weren't nearly enough workers to fix them. Eventually support would arrive from the US mainland, but for the first week or so Puerto Ricans were basically on their own. You know, we only had two hundred and thirty power brigades. That's all we have for for for the company for the island. And that it's not enough. That is just not enough there about three workers in a brigade. So that's six hundred ninety people give or take as a point of comparison as Florida prepared for Irma. They had sixteen thousand workers on call. But for anyone paying attention. It was no surprise that. Prepa did not have the resources to respond to this disaster. Again, here's done yell Eller cone before Maria the island was in a terrible. The economic state a decade or more of economic stagnation. Puerto Rico are US territory and popular getaway destination is trying to avoid a default on its staggering debt. It would be the large in the decades before Maria businesses had left the island in droves as the US government. Phased out a series of tax breaks to make up for all the lost revenue. The Puerto Rican government began borrowing money in the form of bonds year after year, issuing more and more bonds kind of hoping things would turn around but things did not turn around by the time Maria hit the government was in the middle of an enormous debt crisis. And in the course of that was not spared and prep by saddled over the course of many many years with a lot of debt nine billion dollars in debt. Or could no could have. No that sounds like a lot. Can I look at my article? I'm not sure you'll actually had to stop and check his notes while we were talking to make sure this was right. Wow. Yeah. No. That's it. That's it. That's insane. Because of costs and because of debt they're constantly postponing maintenance, like, for example, in the mainland US the vegetation is kept mode. So that there's basically a road that runs underneath the power lines. That's called right of way. Right. And you're supposed to maintain the right of way to make it easy in in the case of, you know, some disaster to access the fallen towers, right? So in Puerto Rico that doesn't that as an exist? When Maria hit prepa had been limping along. Now, they would have to deal with one of the biggest crises the island had ever faced. But there was another problem, and it was a big one. They basically had no strategy for communicating with the public digging have a presence on Twitter or Facebook. There the Twitter feed was was Alba did the Facebook page was nonexistent there. There was no communication saying to people where brigades working everything was kept hush hush d- just to prevent conflict and with little actual information from prepa TV news stations just kind of made stuff up which made hor. Hey, wanna throw his television across the room? There was a political analyst. And he was saying he was what he was saying was wrong. I completely wrong. And not only that he was inciting more fear and desperation rather than comfort in I spend that night just screaming onto TV, my family was, you know, just trail me to be quiet, but that action, right? There is basically would you know, it just gave me an epiphany? He felt like people need to hear what's really happening. I decided to become the news outlet. Starts one man campaign to educate Puerto Ricans about electrical power. He'd do it on his Facebook page, and he wouldn't ask for permission of the dirty reshare. Please spread the knowledge you didn't nine out because if they can more it will take days to repair wasn't forty so early on quotas posts are very technical embarrassed Pacific in eight started really test, everything we'd be good to turn it on and get such and such brigade will be such such line. You know, working to restore such and such wattage to such and such neighborhood. That information was basically four company us. So I decided to start leaking that information to the public every night or hey would come home from sixteen hour shift at work. Hang his smelly clothes out on the porch and start writing October thirty one in five and six ninety five. I was spending around four hours just riding and calling. Calling friends from the field. In asking them food to validate day formation. I never revealed any sources that it had because I was afraid for for for any backlash that it would get after he'd gathered all the information from his sources in the field where he would type out these extremely long posts. Sometimes a thousand words or more with his on an iphone update November third current demand. Nine hundred ninety three megawatts cell service was so spotty that sometimes he'd have to drive to find a signal his wife, Charlotte who was still pregnant would be like what are you doing? My wife would be angry. But then something happened people started responding more and more people started sharing Jorges posts posts of his we're getting thousands of of ripostes and hundreds and hundreds of comments, and he switched at a certain point from a personal page to like a fan page was my wife's idea to realize I was big and it was important. So I decided to post everyday. Update November fourth. What are they wanted to give people information, but he also wanted to show them that people were actually out there working on getting their power back? It was just a really difficult problem to fix. There's a basic problem to the grid, which is the majority of the population lives in the north. So imagine like a rectangle across the middle is a mountain range and the majority of the population lives above that mountain range, and the majority of the power is below that not rich and servicing the towers in. The mountains was not easy. That involves in some cases, you know, flying a tower in by helicopter, and then dropping it in and then guys hiking in and tried to set it up on top of the difficulty of the work. Prepa just didn't have the supplies at needed. Remember Maria was the third in a series of devastating hurricanes that season, we're live here in Huston where Harvey's rains keep coming son returned here today and reveal the devastation left by. Erma the ones powerful hurricane this hurricane triple whammy meant that all the things Puerto Rico needed were in high demand in other places. So we had no materials know, anything like basic stuff lack of supplies of like not having enough nuts and bolts screws, I met guys who were finding stuff in the grass, and they're like, oh, can I use this? And this stuff is like sixty years old. Prepa did the slow work of restoring electric city Puerto Ricans who could afford them relied on generators for power. There were so many that the noise of them drowned out the natural sounds of the island the sound of the cookie cookie cookie fat sound had been replaced by the sound of like more, which is like the horrible horrible like rumble of hundreds of generators. Meanwhile in post after post on Facebook where he did his best to explain why things were moving so slowly unit. Eight ten megawatts. They did a good job at that critical moment of trying to explain to people. You know, this is the reality of the grid that we have agreed that was flawed even before Maria came and wrecked it, but if you scroll through Jorges posts, you'll see that they aren't just technical information. He's also encouraging people to be their best selves and look out for each other. All I'm thinking is like, do you imagine if you had a one community that has power and the community next thus not how that people are going to start, you know, bad lashing out and start feeling resentment and jealousy did it's going to be riots in the streets. Can you can you read one of these Brito pep talks that you wrote era Sunday one on messenger, Katie Mingo. Yeah. The me. To human signal. Eight that maybe I in Spanish, and then you can tell us what it mean. Anything bush. Yeah. It says sink element hotel Kudo Bob and see yet up meal. Are you me Danica dot at dealer who give giveaway? A yellow go sina by that'll be seen them. It'd be nice stuff. So no home indoor bus. What is says is I know that next to you? Everything's in darkness. It's going to light up. If you already powered up help the wants to meet do the best thing that you can't make ice cook cleaned her clothes. You are not forgotten. You are never alone. This moment will pass. That's what. Just back. A lot of memories. Over time for his posts earned him a kind of celebrity status on the island. I went to go see a comedy show. And and he was mentioned in the comedy show. Everyone cracked up like an entire theater, primarily hundreds of people these house of recognition, and like applause and people doubled over laughing. Because it seemed like everybody was checking every day what he was saying. It's the first time in my life that I became a mean one what he mean was an image of his face on one of those Latin prayer candles, say don't let this candle burn out. If you want power. Another Meam referred to him as Saint beard. I got up very very rough beard. It wasn't trimmed down. So they started calling me Saint veered, you know, just caress his beard, if you want power by this point where his bosses knew what he was doing, and whether they approved or not they sort of had to go along because the public was on his side people were stopping him in the streets to thank him. And when they do see me on the street, and you know, they gave me a hug because I'm not I'm not usually a handshake. I I'm more of a hug guy. On November fourteenth 2017 where his baby was born a healthy baby girl who they named laya. Amazingly, Charlotte's mom and dad had just gotten power the day before. So when they left the hospital, the family went straight to her parents air conditioned house with their new baby girl. This was the first Christmas in Puerto Rico since hurricane Maria devastated. The island local engineers by Christmas about half of the island had had their power restored. But the mood was grim. So many people had lost friends or relatives or had their homes destroyed in the storm many people were still in the dark no-one felt much like celebrating still there were moments of lightness a local musician had rewritten the song all I want for Christmas. So that instead of all I want for Christmas is you? It says all I want for Christmas is loose, which means light in Spanish one line in the rewritten song even name drops or hey, pleading in Spanish where hey breath Cerro. Please give me what I want. Okay. I'm sending you this song. Right. Posted on Facebook video of me singing. Eventually the woman who wrote the parody song reached out to four. Hey, and they made a video of the two of them singing it together. Do think ghetto down me he gets put on. Get but on this key us me swinging. The kid kid. Yeah. This is great. I'm gonna does again later on. I forgot I forget. Odd. I spring around eighty five percent of the island had power still. There were thousands of people who didn't in the spring visited a kind of old folks home up in the hills. And at the bottom of the hill. There was power. But there there was no power. And they just couldn't understand why. And they were just beside themselves and just for desperate and the sense of being forgotten. You know? He continued with his daily updates which lines were being fixed where the brigades were headed next team eight brigades and the American contractors and to keep up the sons of momentum. He also shared videos as new places got power like this one where an elementary school in the town of Puerto Nueva finally gets electric. Taken on someone's iphone from the holy the school kids are running by with their arms in the air going completely bananas. The teachers are jumping up and down. It's just pure joy. Happy to see it the figured people would be happy to see it too. Every week. It seemed to Newtown was celebrating started telling people tape it. Do. A lot of these celebration videos, included fireworks, which Korte said in real life became sort of beacon bead see them from faraway, and you know, just got power right now. And this is their celebration. In the comments to these celebration videos, where he assured people that soon would be there turn just remember that even if you don't have power right now, you will have it. And this is going to be you. Power has now been restored all Puerto Rico. It's been nearly eleven months since hurricane Maria roared ashore and took out the finally in August of twenty eighteen prepa announced the entire island had been reconnected to the grid. It was six weeks before the year anniversary of Maria just in time for the next hurricane season. Prepa? Meanwhile, is arguably a worse place than it was before Maria. There's been a lack of steady leadership over the last year with five different directors cycling through the position at the helm. One guy lasted. You know, like a day. There's a sense of a rudderless ship to be honest sense of absolutely rudderless ship for years. Veered FEMA rule have been in place that recipients of disaster money couldn't replace anything with a different. I e more expensive thing, for example, wooden posts couldn't be replaced with stronger metal posts so Puerto Ricans didn't actually get the opportunity to improve their infrastructure. It's the same grid. They had before with a population that's significantly more vulnerable. And Daniel says this part can't be overstated Puerto Ricans were traumatized by Maria. It's not just that they went through this storm. And then went through the aftermath of the storm. It's I think for a lot of people. It's what the aftermath of the storm told them, which is essentially, we don't care about you. You're not you're forgotten. You don't matter the depth of this wound is just. It's just very very deep. Now propose in the process of privatising, basically selling itself off piece by piece in hopes that a private company or various private companies will be able to deliver a better service than the government has. But a lot of people are skeptical. Hor Hebrew zero is still working at prepa still doing the hot exhausting job of maintaining a fifteen storey boiler. He'd like to stop doing such hard, physical labor. He'd like someone to put him in charge of social media or put his other talents to us. I'm off for it. I would love that. But so far they haven't. Hurricane season was in full swing when I talked to were hit. So of course, I asked him how he's feeling about that people ask me ready for an Knicks hurricane and like, no, we need a break. Just give us maybe two years. Just give us that time that window in which are people keep working keep working key working. So that that system can hold a little longer climate change and everything that comes with. It is a reality. You know, hurricane seasons are going to get longer. We're gonna see more, you know. And that's that's pretty scary. Where he told me he thinks Puerto Ricans could survive another hurricane if they had to another year in the dark, even he wouldn't worry as much about the island volving into anarchy as he wants. Did. He saw the best of people after Maria anything's. They could do it again. Just please, please not this year. Haber Sarah was not the only person in Puerto Rico to take matters into their own hands. After Maria all over the island people were stepping into new roles and figuring out DIY solutions. But one town that dunghill coin visited took this really really far the people actually said to hell with meeting on prepa doing this work ourselves. Daniel tell us that story after this. Ninety nine percent invisible is supported by Gillette to let offers a wide range of razor options for every guys grew me needs to let's razors, give a smooth clean-shaven. So you can put your best face forward. And now you can get your let's quality blades delivered directly to your door for less with to let on demand subscribed today at Gillette on demand dot com. And get fifty percent off your first order of the special offer invisible. Fifty that's invisible and the number of fifty at checkout, enjoy free shipping and every fourth order free with your subscription. Visit Gillette on demand dot com. So it seems like all over Puerto Rico people were kind of taking matters into their own hands. Tell me about this town. You went to the basically took it upon themselves to get the lights turned back on absolately in this town called son. So Peppino they took a pretty radical step, which is that they took volunteers and sort of made turn them into linemen and created their own kind of unofficial brigade to connect and reconnect sense. I was down to the grid and some mazing. Yeah. The mayor. He's a charming guy with a rhetorical flourish. Like knows how to give a speech in and make a statement. And basically saying like I had no choice like it was more dangerous to leave my vulnerable population without electrical power because a lot of people are older and sick and would have died without power. Basically got tired of waiting. They they start doing the work on their own which is super dangerous. Like, how did they even know how to do it? Like, did they did they watch YouTube tutorials? Or? Thing as it happened before the storm they had bought a couple of decommissioned repa- trucks with the with the buckets that rise. They bought them. So they could cut brush the hurricane comes. And they're like, well, we've we've got these trucks, and they had one guy who had who had worked as a lineman and another guy who knew a little bit about it. And it say, okay when everybody we need help with the clearing this brush. So we can get to that line to that electrical poll over there, and then everyone would take their machetes and help through the line. And then they'd go and and do the work. They had their whole town connected. Six to eight weeks before the other towns, the other areas around there, and this was just okay. Like, they didn't get in trouble. Like did did prepa what they were doing? But about how to kind of you know, they couldn't officially sanctioned this work. They were certainly coordinating. You know, they had to coordinate because they couldn't be energizing. Line. Well, Peppino power authority guys were connecting it to some polls. You know, so Peppino power authority's sound so official was this official body or it's is this just a made up name so tower thirty is completely uninformed a made up thing to be no means cucumber in Spanish. I guess it sounds less official when you know, it's cucumber. We'll write it. I think that's one of that's where our realize that. Like exactly how savvy have human is the mayor is, you know, it's obviously a play on on, you know, Puerto Rican electrical power thority Pino power theory. You know, it's like, and it's part of of of knowing how to how to tell a story, you know, he got a lot of play for this. And it worked one of the results is. There was a law proposed after all this that was going to loosen. The restrictions for mayors and local local authorities to do the kind of thing that he did. Just a final note. It actually wasn't a law that got passed. It was more of an agreement between prepa and mayors of cities that basically says yeah, mayors can do the work of connecting people to the grid. If they want an prepa is not responsible. If anyone gets hurt. Ninety nine percent invisible was produced this week by me, Katie mingle reported by Danielle our cone was adapted from an article Donyell wrote invited magazine called what happened in the dark mix and tech production by Sharieff USA music by Sean rail. The Leany hall is the senior editor Kirk coasted, the digital director the rest of the team includes Avery Trump woman and FitzGerald Terron Mazza Joe, Rosenberg, Vivian Lee. And feels like there's someone else. Room. In mars. We are project of ninety one point seven kale w in San Francisco and produced on radio row in beat up. That's beautiful downtown, Oakland, California. Yeah, I'm trying to make it a thing. Ninety nine percent invisible is a member of radio topiary from PR ex an independent collective of the most innovative shows in all of podcasting true. You can find the show and join the discussions about the show on Facebook. You can tweet at me at Katie mingle. The show is at ninety nine PI work. We're on Instagram tumbler and read it too. But if you wanna see the amazing Patino power authority logo. Yes, it involves a cucumber with a hard hat on. Or if you want to print out a picture of seat feared put on your altar next time the power goes out, you'll find all of that and more at ninety nine PI dot org. Back next week radio. Also from radio topa, one of the original radio Topi the truth a beautifully in the titular sleep produced in theology of short scripted stories. Their latest is a four part serial called the offseason thriller that takes place against the backdrop of the metoo movement. Hi, you're on the air. Yes. Thank you. That's a question Rita has reaching this level of success been difficult. Of course. I mean this in this field careers that question's not for you. This question is for Bris for me when you try to former co host in your dressing room. Subscribe to the truth wherever you get your podcasts or go to the truth podcast dot com.
Aired 2 months ago 4:06
Advocates Fight 'Culture of Secrecy' In Post-Hurricane Puerto Rico
Support for this podcast and the following message. Come from internet essentials from Comcast. Connecting more than six million low income people to low cost high speed internet at home. So students are ready for homework class graduation and more. Now, they're ready for anything. Puerto Rico is about to get billions of dollars in federal aid to help the island recover from hurricane Maria. But many on the island worry that keeping track of that money is going to be hard. So they're pushing the Puerto Rican government to be more transparent about its spending. Here's NPR's Adrian, Florida community leader mob as Roman by fights for transparency from the working class neighborhood of gun did on the outskirts of Cinquanta. Feces information here has always been a struggle. She says take what happened this summer? She sat down to read a report about the island's recovery that the government was preparing to send to the US congress. The government was soliciting public comment on the document, but the four hundred page draft was in English German doesn't speak English. Well, that's on cassettes got him. We on. I mean to get yourself through. No. I mean, some people said I'll translate it for you to run says. But I said, no, no the census bureau reports close to eighty percent of people in Puerto Rico. Don't speak English will remind was angry that this important document would be off limits to so many Puerto Ricans so she sued the government to get them to translate the report, and they did Roman is part of a budding movement to push because government to be more transparent about how it spends taxpayer dollars. Especially now, the tens of billions and federal. Recovery grants or heading to the island. Well, we'll be have been left in the dark for many years regarding many many things and after the hurricane that method for became a reality because we were actually left in the dark for many, many months to steal Blondet directs the pro transparency nonprofit called Espacio CBS those open spaces, and it seems as if we're going to continue to be in the dark for many things the most dramatic example of government. Secrecy was thirty because refusal for months to release data about who died after the hurricane. Another example just last month, it fought requests to release. It's updated hurricane response plan Bonet and others fear that such secrecy. If applied to how the government issues, its reconstruction contracts could doom efforts at an effective recovery. We you need to keep a close watch on what's going on. So that we can protect the future of the recall, but also project an image of transplant. Rency and credibility depends on by nervous is research director at the center for a new economy a- sound fun think-tank he points to a website. The governor promised would be a transparency portal for reconstruction spending in order to be truly transparent number says, it would have to include contracts and subcontracts something that hasn't happened yet only that way could the public closely monitor spending says limiting transparency could make it harder report Rico to get more of the recovery money. It needs concern on the side or federal government that the government of Puerto Rico is gonna wander the funds. I think this is totally unfair. I mean borderline discriminatory, but he says that perception is a political reality in that the island's government can dispel that stereotype by being more transparent NPR made several unsuccessful requests to interview the governor that here's what he said at a press conference in may process article, but I'll see methadone button thirty thousand. We will have the most. Parent disaster recovery process in US history. The governor said it's a promise he's made repeatedly Adrian NPR news, some one thirty.