President Donald Trump and his administration have been praising themselves for sending aid to Puerto Rico, following the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria.
However, Trump has denied a request from several members of Congress to waive shipping restrictions — the Jones Act — to get gasoline and other supplies to Puerto Rico, even though the Department of Homeland Security waived the Jones Act twice when hurricanes hit the U.S.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona called Trump’s decision “unacceptable.”
Nelson Denis, a former New York state assemblyman, told Democracy Now how the Jones Act is delaying aid to Puerto Rico during this disaster and price gouging the poverty-stricken country during normal times:
The only way that foreign registry goods can enter Puerto Rico, under the auspices of the Jones Act, is one of two ways. The goods, all goods—food, water, medicine, oil for the electrical grid, which runs entirely on oil—all of it has to come one of two ways.
If it comes directly into Puerto Rico, it has to pay fees, duties, taxes, import quotas, all sorts of costs that are passed on to the Puerto Rican consumer. The other alternative, the only option, is to reroute to Jacksonville, Florida.
The foreign registry vessel goes to Jacksonville, they offload the goods, reload onto a U.S. vessel, then that vessel reroutes back to Puerto Rico. It’s the equivalent of digging a ditch to fill it again.
The net result of this is that everything on those ships is then priced 15 to 20 percent higher because of all that activity, because of all those duties and because of what they pay in Puerto Rico or because of the rerouting from Jacksonville.
That then creates a price-rigging environment where U.S. corporations can just slightly underbid. The same automobile costs $6,000 more in San Juan than it does in Miami.
Food costs twice as much throughout Puerto Rico as it does in the mainland United States. And yet, Puerto Ricans—the per capita in Puerto Rico is about $17,000, less than half of that of Mississippi, the poorest state in the union.
So, we have a tremendous dysfunction going on. It’s extremely profitable for the Jones Act carrier companies and for the consumer goods. There’s more Walgreens and Wal-Marts per square mile in Puerto Rico than anywhere else on the planet.
Puerto Rico is the fifth-largest market in the world for U.S. goods, all under hyperinflated prices due to the Jones Act. That’s why right now there has to be a tectonic shift in this relationship. We have to eliminate the Jones Act so that Puerto Ricans can afford to live.
(Source: Democracy Now)