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VIDEO: On Senate Floor, Rubio Warns Puerto Rico is ‘Growing Humanitarian Crisis’

Sep 26, 2017 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Speaking on the U.S. Senate floor today—after visiting Puerto Rico yesterday—Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) explained the unique challenges Puerto Rico faces as it struggles to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Maria.
The full speech can be watched here and a downloadable broadcast quality version is available for TV stations here. Key excerpts of Rubio’s remarks are transcribed below.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor
Washington, D.C.
September 26, 2017

RUBIO: I had the opportunity yesterday to, along with the Coast Guard and the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Jenniffer Gonzalez, to visit San Juan, Puerto Rico, and firsthand see some of the devastation that has impacted this U.S. territory. I would summarize it by saying that what I saw is over three and half million American citizens potentially on the verge of a serious and growing humanitarian crisis. …
[I]n many cases, the government of Puerto Rico still does not have a full assessment of the damage of the storm. Because while in San Juan communication is still severally limited, in most of the other areas of the big island and the smaller islands, communication is nonexistent – something brought to me firsthand yesterday when we visited one of the Coast Guard centers and watched as much of the response that they’re conducting there is limited to a paper map on a wall with some sticky notepads, and four land lines that they hope people can call in and give them some updates on what they were seeing in the field from the satellite phone. Now hopefully that has improved over the last 24 hours as more Coast Guard vessels came in to support communications, but we still have large parts of Puerto Rico that have not communicated with the rest of the island or the government or the outside world for that matter, going on six days. …
While the response to this storm will take a significant amount of patience, it will also take a significant amount of urgency. For each day that goes by, this crisis will get worse, not better. And I fear that if in fact there is not enough urgency in the response, we will be talking about a very different set of stories in the days to come. I hope I’m wrong, with all of my heart. But I fear that when communications does come back up, and when we start getting more access to some of these areas that have been cut off, we’re going to start learning that the toll and the impact of this storm is far worse than we had imagined. …
I don’t believe it’s fair to say that the response up to this point is because some people don’t care or because they haven’t paid enough attention to it. I honestly think it’s just a challenge that is unique and that requires to respond to it in ways that we wouldn’t traditionally respond for the factors I’ve just pointed out. …
I just think it’s imperative that we don’t lose focus and don’t lose sight on what’s at hand. Because there are over 3 million American citizens in danger, and a number of them, perhaps in the thousands, that already have existing vulnerabilities, in extreme danger of losing their life, and extraordinary human suffering. …
I think the most important thing we need to do now is to continue to drive the sense of urgency, to do all we can to bring to bear all of the resources the federal government can bring to assist in this recovery. And then we’ll be able to work together on not just rebuilding Puerto Rico, but helping her to rebuild so that she is stronger, more prosperous and more stable than ever.