As Puerto Rico Begins Rebuilding After Maria, “They’re Talking About Decades”

CHICAGO (CBS) — While they raise money and collect supplies for those affected by Hurricane Maria, a local coalition of Puerto Rican leaders is hoping for more help from the United States.

The Puerto Rican Agenda, a Chicago-based organization of Puerto Rican activists, organized a fundraiser on Friday.

“We were able to collect $67,000,” said co-chair Cristina Pacione-Zayas.

With the help of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez and United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, a plane of supplies also is on its way to Puerto Rico.

“We are sending out a cargo plane full of supplies that will be received by San Juan’s mayor, who will then support the efforts to disperse them throughout the island, to the hardest-hit areas,” Pacione-Zayas said.

When it comes to the overall recovery process, Pacione-Zayas said the U.S. must take the lead.

“We do not want to share the costs of rebuilding. We need the United States to take that up,” she said. “If the United States truly believes in liberty, and self-determination, it would support Puerto Rico rebuilding in a way that encourages self-determination, and less dependence.”

When it comes to communication with loved ones still on the island, Pacione-Zayas called it “spotty,” since many are unable to use their phones.

“It has really been a wake-up call in how dependent we are on 21st century technology to connect,” she said.

Pacione-Zayas blamed the widespread power outages and lack of phone service in Puerto Rico on the U.S. commonwealth’s financial crisis, which has made handling the storm more difficult.

“Because of the infrastructure not being up to the most current regulations and standards, you’re not able to recover as quickly. They’re talking about decades,” she said.

Just as they did for victims of Harvey and Irma, Pacione-Zayas hopes U.S. officials step up and help.

“We can’t get people over to Puerto Rico immediately. We can’t get supplies delivered right in a second,” she said.

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