After requesting comment from the government of Puerto Rico for five days about a December 7 Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI)/Latino USA report that nearly 1,000 more deaths occurred in Puerto Rico the first 40 days after Hurricane María struck the island (when compared to the same time period in 2016), the press officer for the Department of Public Security (also known as the Department of Public Safety in English) sent the following Wednesday morning statement to Latino USA in an email that cc’d both Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s press officer and the Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA). This is what the statement said:
DECEMBER 13, 2017
Authorized Statement From the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety, Héctor M. Pesquera:
“Doctors certify all deaths in Puerto Rico and they provide the relevant information on the death certificate. The Demographic Registry of the Puerto Rico Department of Health registers this document.
According to the data, the total deaths registered in September were: 2,890 in 2017, 2,367 in 2016, and 2,258 in 2015. For October, the total of deaths registered were: 2,974 in 2017, 2,357 in 2016, and 2,393 in 2015.
It should be noted that similar numbers are seen in December and January of previous years when no atmospheric phenomenon took place. For December, the total deaths were: 2,854 in 2016 and 2,516 in 2015. Meanwhile, in January the total deaths were: 2,894 in 2017, 2,742 in 2016, and 2,744 in 2015.
With this, I suggest that the number of total deaths in Puerto Rico is not a fixed one. As for the deaths directly and indirectly related to hurricane Maria today, December 13, 2017, there are 64. The evaluation process has not concluded. The process for certification is based on the documentation and evidence presented. Likewise, as I have reiterated on multiple occasions, we are open to receiving cases of deaths that could be related to the hurricane in order to direct the corresponding investigations.”
According to the December 7 CPI/Latino USA story, “2,883 deaths were registered in September 2017 and 2,906 in October 2017, compared to 2,367 for September 2016 and 2,357 for October 2016.” In September 2015, there were 2,258 registered deaths. In October 2015, there were 2,393 registered deaths. Pesquera’s Wednesday morning statement said there were 2,890 registered in September 2017 and 2,974 in October 2017. The latest data from Pesquera for September and October of 2017 is higher than the information the CPI and Latino USA reported last Thursday.
This story was made possible by the Futuro Media Group as part of a collaboration supported by the Ford Foundation.