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Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico

Coming together to overcome FEMA failures

By Monique Dols - Socialist Worker, October 10, 2017

DONALD TRUMP'S hateful tweet that the residents of Puerto Rico "want everything to done for them" made people's blood boil around the world--but nowhere more than in Puerto Rico itself, where conditions are desperate after the devastation of two powerful hurricanes that was made worse by man-made factors.

In glaring contrast to Trump's racist twitter rant, the island's people are stepping up and organizing themselves, filling the vacuum left by the mismanagement of the federal government and some local authorities.

One example of self-organization to meet the needs of people still reeling from the disaster is Caguas, a city in a mountainous area south of San Juan, where members of Comedores Sociales de Puerto Rico (Community Kitchens of Puerto Rico) and Urbe Apie (City Rising), a group of activists working for the revitalization of Caguas, organized the Centro de Apoyo Mutuo (Mutual Aid Center, or CAM).

Basing itself on the need for food and other critical supplies and services to reach the people who need them, CAM was formed a week after the hurricane and quickly became a hub of activity, with people pouring in to help each other through the crisis.

Organizers estimate the center feeds about 500 to 700 people per day and exists entirely on volunteer labor, donated food and food bought with monetary donations made directly to the project. At the center, people eat and cook together--and, just as importantly, find companionship and solidarity at a moment when millions are desperate and in despair, unsure of what will happen next.

Daniel Orsini, a CAM organizer in Caguas, says that solidarity activists outside of Puerto Rico wishing to send support to the island should donate directly to the CAM project. According to Orsini, the federal government's FEMA operation is badly mismanaged, and supplies sent to Puerto Rico, including through mainstream NGOs, aren't getting to the people who need them.

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