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Nat’l Guard called up to help deliver supplies to Vieques, Culebra

The Puerto Rico National Guard has been called upon to help stabilize the delivery of provisions to the island municipalities of Vieques and Culebra with two vessels that will cover the maritime routes starting today.

The two ships will join the rotation already served by the Mr. Mason and Marilin H. cargo ships that connect Puerto Rico to the small islands that late last week ran out of gasoline and were experiencing a shortage of many provisions, including food and construction materials, according to photos posted on social media.

In a press release, the Department of Transportation and Public Works announced it will provide the Maritime Transportation Authority with “the necessary resources” to ensure that the islands are covered.

On Sunday, government officials visited businesses in Vieques and called those in Culebra to validate their inventory levels and confirm which ones have warehousing capacity to establishing delivery priorities starting this week.

Meanwhile, the agencies called on providers that supply Vieques to arrive at the Ceiba cargo terminal at 4 a.m. today to load ships with goods to cover demand for the coming days.

The National Guard’s participation is expected to stabilize cargo service to the islands. Over the weekend, Vieques received 40,000 of fuel delivered by trucks transported on the Marilin H. vessel, after running completely dry several days earlier.

But that maneuver was not without its mishaps, because when the cargo ship anchored at Mosquito Bay pier, the four delivery trucks could not immediately roll off the ferry’s ramp as there was a gap of several feet between it and the ground. The problem was solved by Vieques residents operating heavy machinery to build a platform out of packed dirt to enable the trucks to drive off the ferry.

Culebra received 12,000 gallons of fuel on Sunday morning, the government confirmed.

The shortage situation and the problems that plagued the island municipality of Vieques peaked on Saturday, when Mara Pérez stepped down from her post as executive director of the Maritime Transportation Authority. Gov. Pedro Pierluisi named Miguel Betancourt as interim director of the agency, which drew concerns from the island’s residents.

During an emergency town meeting on Sunday, they expressed their opposition to the appointment and asked Mayor José Corcino deliver their concerns to the governor. Among other things, the residents claim that Betancourt owns the Marilin H. vessel, which represents a conflict of interest.

“That needs to be looked into and if it’s true, the governor should take action,” Vieques Mayor José Corcino said in an interview.


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