Former President Bill Clinton and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were in Puerto Rico this week to participate in discussions about the island’s hurricane recovery and announce a commitment to 39 projects in the Caribbean, many in Puerto Rico but also in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, among others.
It’s difficult to gauge the dollar-value of the projects, ranging from food, health care and the environment to tourism, since no estimates were given. In addition, the Clinton Global Initiative tends to favor private-public partnership, creating “action networks.” Most of the programs appear to focus on training and community-based initiatives.
However, the World Central Kitchen, headed by chef José Andrés and which provided over 1 million meals to Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane María, attached a $3.2 million price tag to expand its Plow to Plate initiative to award over 200 grants to local farmers through 2023.
New on the agenda is a plan to address the island’s opioid addiction issues by funding research to generate data on the prevalence of the problem. In addition, the Clinton Global Initiative aims to provide doses of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses, among other things. The former president cited 600 cases of fentanyl overdoses and 60 deaths occurred in Puerto Rico in 2017.
Other programs include work-based learning for high school students and transforming fogones or community kitchens that popped up after Hurricane María into income-producing enterprises.
The Clinton Global Initiative was heavily criticized for its work, or more precisely, its lack of results in Haiti after it was ravaged by the earthquake of 2010. A recent analysis in the Guardian newspaper lambasted organizations such as the Clinton Global Initiative for “grooming the rich to be self-appointed leaders of social change, taking on the problems people like them have been instrumental in creating or sustaining.”
Among the initiative’s many donors are hedge funds and financial institutions, some of which played a role in Puerto Rico’s financial debacle. But to be fair, the island, in dire need of recovery after Category 4 Hurricane María, welcomes the help it can get. The meeting alone ought to be good for millions of dollars in economic impact in Puerto Rico. Plus, the Clintons are very good at what they do.
˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor