Statement On The Death Toll in Puerto Rico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 30th, 2018

CONTACT: Christiaan Perez, cperez@latinojustice.org, 212-739-7581

New york, NY - We are horrified and not surprised by a new study just released by the New England Journal of Medicine showing that approximately 4,645 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Despite the government of Puerto Rico’s position that the official count remains at 64 deaths, scientists and independent journalist organizations like the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo in Puerto Rico have been researching and documenting what the government has refused to acknowledge and even tried to hide: the deaths of thousands of Puerto Ricans as a result of gross negligence by all levels of government. The death count – which is unknown and could be closer to 8,000 – was not directly caused by the hurricane, but rather by the tremendous incompetence and negligence of government in the months following. Thousands of people were denied access to food and water, as well as critical healthcare and shelter. Hundreds of thousands were forced to leave the island to seek medical attention, housing and economic opportunities elsewhere. Local government officials decided to politicize relief efforts, noting that the federal government had provided all the aid requested, while communities across the island were left abandoned and without access to fundamental services and goods critical for survival.

We welcome the results of the study and hope that families who lost loved ones after the devastating impact of the hurricane can now properly acknowledge and remember them. Our thoughts are with the millions of Puerto Ricans on the island and in the diaspora who continued to be affected by the hurricane and its aftermath, including forced displacement, the imposition of austerity that continues to cut critical public services and the denial of FEMA of compensation for damages to belongings and housing structures.

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