U.S. and Puerto Rican officials are set to meet with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, IACHR, representatives on Thursday to investigate possible human rights violations in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The inquiry will be held in Washington, D.C. with at least one Puerto Rican governmental representative as well as about 30 Puerto Rican civil and social organizations in attendance.
"At the international level, there are state obligations that were clearly violated during the emergency process," said Annette Martinez, director of the Caribbean Institute of Human Rights.
From the hurricane-torn island, some 25 social groups compiled a report detailing the desperate situation, entitled “Natural Disasters, Pollution, Poverty and Inequality in Puerto Rico." The research was presented to the IACHR, one of the only international groups imposing sanctions against the United States and holding the country responsible for its delayed action.
This is the third occasion social groups denounced the United States over its extreme negligence to the island's needs. In the past, the IACHR has sat in on meetings exposing the island’s extreme debt, poverty and lack of special education programs in public schools.
"This occasion, obviously, has a particular urgency for the situations that are being experienced in Puerto Rico. I can tell you that when we made the request we were without light and without water, very little connection to the internet, but I did it," Martinez said.
"It is an effort that arises from the need to denounce what civil society organizations are seeing, what is happening after the hurricane."
Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, United Nations Representative for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, will be meeting with island officials and finance ministers as part of an extensive investigation on the effects of poverty in the U.S. on the civil and human rights of its citizens.
The nation-wide research project was approved by the Obama Administration with Alston, a Human Rights professor at New York University, being entrusted with the U.N. mission.
"It is inevitable that he will have to evaluate the issue of poverty linked to the means of austerity and mismanagement of the disaster," Martinez said.
Alston announced his plans to travel to a number of communities and document the effects of the austerity measures, particularly those imposed by the Fiscal Oversight Board in charge of the island’s finances, negatively affected Puerto Rican society, health and economy.
His findings will be presented in Washington, D.C. by Dec. 15 with the finalized report scheduled to be published in Spring of 2018.