Puerto Rico remains in crisis conditions after Hurricane Maria
Trump's response to Puerto Rico stands in contrast to his tweets following hurricanes Harvey and Irma
President Donald Trump said Thursday morning that the United States cannot aid hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico “forever,” offering the island territory a dramatically different level of commitment than he extended Texas and Florida after hurricanes rocked each of those states.
Thursday’s Twitter messages from Trump compound previous statements saying the US territory has not done enough for itself during clean-up efforts and Twitter fights with Puerto Rican officials, such as San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
“Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend,” Trump tweeted Thursday. “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
Puerto Rico remains in crisis conditions after Hurricane Maria made landfall late last month. Nearly three weeks after the hurricane hit, 83% of Puerto Rico is without power, according to the Puerto Rican government, much of the 3.4 million-person island is without clean water, and the death toll has jumped to 45 with at least 113 people unaccounted for.
The Environmental Protection Agency said Wednesday that residents on the island have reportedly been trying to obtain water from Superfund sites – bodies of water contaminated by hazardous waste.
But while Trump visited San Juan last week, Trump’s response to Puerto Rico stands in contrast to what he tweeted after visiting Houston, a city that was left powerless and flooded by Hurricane Harvey.
“TEXAS: We are with you today, we are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you EVERY SINGLE DAY AFTER, to restore, recover, and REBUILD,” he wrote.
Trump extended the same message to Florida after Hurricane Irma hit the state.
“Just like TX, WE are w/you today, we are w/you tomorrow, & we will be w/you EVERY SINGLE DAY AFTER, to RESTORE, RECOVER, & REBUILD,” he wrote.
Trump has been accused ever since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico of demeaning the island’s efforts to rebuild and recover.
In a series of tweets attacking the mayor of San Juan, Trump accused the leadership in Puerto Rico of wanting “everything to be done for them.”
“Such poor leadership ability by the mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help,” he wrote over two tweets. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
Yulín Cruz responded to Trump’s Thursday morning tweets by calling him the “Hater in Chief.”
Trump has also compared Puerto Rico to Texas and Florida, noting that the island territory – which was already dealing with a debt crisis before the hurricane hit – had an aging infrastructure and power system.
“Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble,” he wrote. “It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated.”
Puerto Rico’s debt has loomed large over the Trump administration’s response to the island. Trump said with a grin during his visit to the island that paying for the recovery has “thrown our budget a little out of whack.”
After Trump’s tweets on Thursday morning, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to the island but said that recoveries – like the one ongoing in Puerto Rico – cannot last forever.
“We continue to do so with the full force of the US government and its resources in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and other affected areas,” she said. “Successful recoveries do not last forever; they should be as swift as possible to help people resume their normal lives.”
She added: “We are committed to helping Puerto Rico. Our administration is working with Gov. (Ricardo) Rossello and Congress to identify the best fiscally responsible path forward.”
White House chief of staff John Kelly, speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, said Trump’s tweet about the United States military and FEMA was “exactly accurate” because all first responders want to “work yourself out of a job.”
“The minute you go anywhere as a first responder, and this would apply certainly to the military, you will try really hard to work yourself out of a job,” he said. “There will be a period in which we hope sooner rather than later, the US military and FEMA, generally speaking can withdraw because then the government and people of Puerto Rico are recovering sufficiently to start the process of rebuilding.”
Kelly added that the tweet was “exactly accurate” because “they are not going to be there forever.”