Trump: responds to Puerto Rico crisis, island has ‘massive debt’

The US President’s belated response to the devastation brought about by hurricane Maria seems to blame islanders for their misfortune

The destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico just last week (Photo: NBC News)
The destruction caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico just last week (Photo: NBC News)

Five days after hurricane Maria struck, Donald Trump has finally responded, sparking a new controversy, after the hurricane brought chaos to the lives of over 3.5 million Americans in Puerto Rico.

By means of comments on his Twitter account, many have retorted that his comments were belated and lackluster.

Trump did not offer any additional federal government assistance for the US territory, after the states were struck by both Harvey and Irma.

He did acknowledge that “much of the island was destroyed”, but went on to say that its electrical grid was already “in terrible shape” and that Puerto Rico owed billions of dollars to Wall Street and banks “which, sadly, must be dealt with”.

This was the first comment Trump has made regarding Puerto Rico since hours before Maria made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. On that occasion, he told the people of Puerto Rico: “We are with you”.

But for many Puerto Ricans, the president has not been with then. Some 700 Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) staff are on the island, and a total of 10,000 workers, carrying out search and rescue missions, as well as supplying basic food and water.

Trump himself has spent the last five days mired in his self-made battle with African-American sports stars, while making no progress in terms of the plight of millions of Hispanic Americans in a natural disaster zone. The Trump administration has also refused to waive federal restrictions on foreign ships carrying life-saving supplies to Puerto Rico – a concession it readily made for Texas and Florida in the cases of hurricanes Harvey and Irma respectively.

The last of his three tweets, Trump said that “food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well”. But it may not tally with experiences on the ground where governor, Ricardo Rosselló, has warned that Puerto Rico is on the brink of a “humanitarian crisis”.

Thousands are struggling as a result of a heat wave, destroyed houses and rapidly depleting supplies.

Juliette Kayyem, a former senior official in the department of homeland security under President Obama, said that Trump’s response to the Puerto Rico disaster showed “a lack of empathy of epic proportions”.

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