News & Politics

FBI Reviewing Allegations of Puerto Rican Officials Withholding Hurricane Aid

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - SEPTEMBER 30: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The FBI in Puerto Rico has received numerous allegations of official malfeasance with regard to the distribution of hurricane relief.

Residents across the island are reporting that local politicians are distributing supplies not to those who need them but to their cronies and supporters.

The Daily Caller:

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

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

He added, “So what we’re doing is looking into these allegations. That I can tell you is happening. Again, I cannot say that we have any ongoing investigation. We’re just corroborating these allegations.”
According to Osorio, there are claims that despite delivery of hurricane relief by FEMA, assisted by other federal officials like the FBI to town centers, for example, local officials will first distribute the relief to their political allies once federal officials leave the area.

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

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

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

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

The problem has never been that Puerto Rico didn’t have enough relief aid. The problem has always been Puerto Rico’s third-world transportation infrastructure, which was nearly destroyed by the storm, and incompetent local officials who now turn out to be — some of them — corrupt.

For her sake, I really hope the mayor of San Juan, who heavily criticized the government response to the crisis, hasn’t been implicated in any scheme to distribute aid to her cronies and not those who need them.

The widespread nature of the allegations suggests they are true. If so, it’s a shame that the Puerto Rican relief narrative has already been set and there’s no room for the truth to alter the story that the feds didn’t care about the island.