The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Puerto Rico is investigating allegations that officials in Puerto Rico have been negligent in distributing essential supplies from the Federal Emergency Management agency. from residents across the island who say local officials in the territory have withheld needed FEMA supplies.

The FBI is looking into activities of politicians in six of Puerto Rico's 78 municipal governments. Last Sunday, U.S. federal prosecutor Rosa Emilia Rodriguez said on WAPA radio that she is ready to prosecute any official who withholds relief. When asked on Wednesday about a Puerto Rican representative who is suspected of withholding essential relief, Rodriguez said, “I do not know him and I do not know the facts. I do not think it would be proper to comment on that. We are not going to individualize it. But, anyone who is withholding supplies is in violation of federal and state law.” She went on to say, “That has not changed. The (criminal prosecution) remains the same situation. Yesterday there was a government official from a municipality who gave everything he had to deliver very fast and it prevented us from charging him, and I suspect that now there will be many more who do not want to keep the supplies. But, definitely, what we get will be processed."

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello promised that there would be "hell to pay" for anyone misappropriating relief supplies. He said earlier this week that investigators are looking into multiple reports about officials failing to collect and deliver necessary food and water. Rossello tweeted on Monday that he has ordered prosecutors to "investigate irregular indications in the handling of supplies."    

Rossello wrote a letter to President Donald Trump last weekend requesting federal funding for relief and recovery efforts. According to Rossello, independent damage assessments in Puerto Rico are as high as $95 billion -- about 150 percent of the island's gross national product. The island is currently in debt to the tune of more than $70 billion. President Trump has called on Puerto Rico's politicians to address the fiscal crisis, and ageing infrastructure, that existed before hurricanes Irma and Maria struck. 

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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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