WASHINGTON — President Trump rekindled his feud with the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, over Hurricane Maria response as Hurricane Florida bears down on the Carolinas, and the Republican governor of Puerto Rico lashed out at Trump’s assertion that last year’s hurricane response was great.
Two weeks ago, the death toll from September 2017’s Hurricane Maria was increased to more than 46 times the previous official government tally.
There were 2,975 deaths attributed to the hurricane. Comparatively, the official death toll in 2005’s Hurricane Katrina is 1,833.
At a briefing with FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Tuesday to discuss preparations for Hurricane Florence, Trump was asked about lessons learned from Maria that could be applied to storm preparation this year.
“The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did working along with the governor in Puerto Rico, I think, was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible unsung success,” Trump said. “Texas, we have been given A-plusses for. Florida, we’ve been given A-plusses for. I think in a certain way, the best job we did was Puerto Rico, but nobody would understand that.”
The president, criticizing Puerto Rico for having aging infrastructure before the storm that exacerbated problems with the energy grid, added that “we’ve gotten a lot of receptivity, a lot of thanks for the job we’ve done in Puerto Rico.”
“Puerto Rico was very important. And by the way, speaking of Puerto Rico, they’re going to be affected pretty much, pretty soon by something else that’s on its way, is that right?” he added.
“Potentially, Hurricane Isaac right now is tracking south of the island, but we are — we had several thousand people inside Puerto Rico right now working on long-term recovery that has shifted to the response mode to monitor, as Isaac passes to the south,” Long replied.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló shot back in a statement that “the historical relationship between Puerto Rico and Washington is unfair and unAmerican” and “certainly not a successful relationship.”
“This was the worst natural disaster in our modern history,” he said. “Our basic infrastructure was devastated, thousands of our people lost their lives and many others still struggle.”
“Now is not the time to pass judgement; it is time to channel every effort to improve the lives of over 3 million Americans in Puerto Rico,” he added.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told CNN on Tuesday night that Trump “just keeps adding insult to injury.”
“And I think his words are despicable. They really do not have any connection with reality and it just shows that for him, everything is about him and political posturing,” she said. “The man has no idea. He has no solidarity, no sympathy, no empathy for anything that does not make him look good. Well, I’m sorry, sir, shame on you. You did not do a good job in Puerto Rico.”
“If he thinks that 3,000 people dying on his watch is a good news story or is an unsung success, you know, nobody’s going to be singing his praises, because this was a despicable act of neglect on the part of his administration.”
Cruz and Trump came to blows in the aftermath of Maria as the mayor pleaded for help from the federal government.
“In a humanitarian crisis, you should not be grading yourself, you should not be just having a parade of self-accolades. You should never be content with everything we did. I’m not content with everything I did. I should have done more. We all should have done more,” she said Tuesday. “But the president continues to refuse to acknowledge his responsibility and the problem is that if he didn’t acknowledge it in Puerto Rico, God bless the people of South Carolina and the people of North Carolina. If he doesn’t learn from his mistakes, he’s going to make them again and people are going to continue to die.”
“…This is a stain on the president, with on his presidency, and the world has seen what he’s done. He says he’s done a good job when 3,000 people have died. Well, God bless us all if this man continues on this path.”
Trump tweeted this morning, “We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!”