March 8, 2021

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FEMA Letter "Constructive Criticism" | government

The government of Puerto Rico entered its first cyclone event of the 2020 hurricane season with signs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that they are not prepared to respond to a major event, which in their judgment by the Secretary of the Department of State Elmer Román, are "constructive criticisms" that will be reflected in a future action plan.

Román's statements were supported by the Secretary of the Department of Public Security (DSP), Pedro Janer and the coordinator Federal FEMA in Puerto Rico, Alex Amparo. The latter did not distance himself from the expressions made by the FEMA administrator in the New York area, Thomas Von Essen, but he did urge the government to consider it as an action plan to respond to emergencies. “This is part of the continuous application process. We have to accept the criticism and work it out quickly because that is what is being reported to us at the moment. Part of the process, Nmead and FEMA with me on board are working, we are integrated and I am looking in a very critical way at what is being done in operations, "said Román.

While Janer explained that each jurisdiction has its rule and that when they meet with Von Essen they will explain to him, specifically, how the DSP works and the seven businesses that comprise it. However, he acknowledged that this agency has not been able to fully integrate, although it was established through legislation passed in 2017. “In 33 years of service in the federal government and in several different jurisdictions, I can say that even with uniformity and the organization that exists in the federal government, they are not as they are in New York or as they are in Texas. Each agency shapes its operations according to the environment as they are. Puerto Rico is no different, we do certain things here that could be classified as something different, but we do it just as effectively and we have the maturity that when we do not know or are not sure we ask for help and ask, "he said.

None of the officials who participated in the press conference yesterday was able to specify which of the indications made by FEMA began to work or which ones remain to be fulfilled. “Several of the indications they made to us are how things are done, but we reached the same end. Again, if there is something we can do more effectively, we will consider it. We are not closed to new ideas or procedures, "Janer said.

Nor did they make a clear expression that contradicted Von Essen's initial statement that the government" is not prepared to respond to and handle a major event. " In fact, yesterday Governor Wanda Vázquez issued an executive order decreeing a state of emergency and activating the Puerto Rico National Guard. In addition, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, signed an emergency declaration for the Island due to the passage of the potential cyclone.

He insisted that "we are going to have an opportunity" for Von Essen to visit Puerto Rico for an orientation on the reasons why the government acts differently from other jurisdictions. Amparo, meanwhile, said FEMA's relationship with the government is one of "mutual respect and direct communication." "The letters were critical observations, but in a way to improve," he added.

In a play on words, Román and Janer diverted questions about the reasons why the commissioner of the Bureau of Emergencies and Disaster Management ( Nmead), Nino Correa, did not know the content of the letter.

Correa, meanwhile, said that he would focus on his work and that he would not enter into the controversy, since he distanced himself from the indications made by FEMA. "I will be responsible and in that sense, I know that from the first day the governor, the heads of agencies and the mayors know my position and the work we have always done. I want to focus on that, on the jobs, because since we entered there are some jobs that we had to continue attending to, "he said.

"Are we ready for a bigger event?" Asked a journalist to Janer.

"All this has always been work in progress and when Nino assumed the position of commissioner these suggestions were already being followed, they were being attended to and they were working. When Nino joins the works continue and here we never stop. That's how the process happened, "replied the official.

The only press conference of the day on the government's response to the potential cyclone did not include the participation of Governor Wanda Vázquez, who visited several hospitals and localities of energy and towns to supervise preparations.

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