The former political prisoner and Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar Lopez Rivera says the U.S. President Donald Trump has done “tremendous damage” to the Puerto Rican people by calling Hurricane Maria a “storm” and comparing the situation in Puerto Rico to the aftermath of Katrina in Louisiana in 2005.
In an interview with teleSUR, the activist said the only thing Puerto Rico and Louisiana had in common was the state's inaction and insisted that, "You cannot compare one hurricane with another because they are not equal - they are never the same."
Trump's visit on Tuesday has been widely panned for its insensitivity. He tossed paper towel rolls into a crowd at a church and compared Hurricane Maria unfavorably to a "real catastrophe like Katrina."
“There had been warnings that the levees needed repairs for 10 years before Katrina, so the damage Katrina did in New Orleans can be blamed on the state, just like in Puerto Rico,” said Lopez Rivera.
“In Puerto Rico it's actually worse because the people in charge are part of an elite - state officials were not on the streets helping the victims, but at a news conference with Donald Trump, applauding him.”
In Lopez Rivera's opinion, Puerto Rico is still being abused and treated as a colony by Washington, so the U.S. and Puerto Rican economic elites can do business at the expense of the Puerto Rican people.
He said Cuban doctors were not allowed to provide medical help and Venezuela was prohibited from donating oil because the U.S. construction sector, banks and health industry, among others, wanted to maintain a monopoly.
“They have never let the domestic market in Puerto Rico grow,” he said. “Since 1898, when the U.S. military troops invaded Puerto Rico, there has already been a small elite in Puerto Rico ready to collaborate with them, and from generation to generation, they gained more power, managing the colony.”
"(The Puerto Rican elites) help the banks and hedge funds to loot the country, and we cannot allow this anymore, they create a criminal public debt that Puerto Ricans can not even pay," he said.
Lopez Rivera said the Puerto Rican people are strong and they deserve respect. They are doing everything to try to bring the country back to normality but he reiterated that as a colony it "can never be normal."