(WASHINGTON) — President Trump took a break on Monday from tweeting about the controversy over NFL player protests to talk about Puerto Rico’s financial woes, but critics say the president’s message is off-base as the island faces widespread devastation.
In his first tweets since the island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria last week, Trump said Puerto Rico’s “broken infrastructure & massive debt” have left it in worse straits than mainland states.
Maria was the strongest storm to make landfall in Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years. The storm killed at least 16 people and caused widespread devastation that left most of the island’s 3.4 million people without power and half without water amid large-scale electricity and communications outages.
A few stores have re-opened, but most remained closed due to power outages five days after Maria blasted through. Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month, according to The Associated Press.
Travelers trying to leave Puerto Rico described a chaotic scene at San Juan airport on Monday.
“It’s really hot, it is extremely hot,” Erika Camacho told ABC News. “It’s horrible, there’s no water, no electricity and there’s only two companies working. I don’t know if I’ll come back quick, but I’ll come back. The family is here.”
“We tried to get a hotel, everything is booked, the car we had to turn it in, we had no gas,” another would-be traveler, Angelica Hernandez, told ABC News. “I just wanna go home, I really do, it’s bad, and then everything we saw from the countryside, it’s just sad. I don’t think I could deal with it.”
Criticism of Trump’s response to the large-scale crisis happening on American soil is mounting from celebrities and politicians alike.
In a press conference yesterday, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said, “We are close to a humanitarian crisis, but we are trying to avoid it.”
Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney echoed those sentiments, writing that the island is on the brink of a “humanitarian disaster” and called for controversies to be set aside.
Just spoke w/ fmr Gov @luisfortuno51: “PR on brink of humanitarian disaster." USVI too. DC must put aside controversies, prioritize rescue.
— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) September 25, 2017
Sen. Marco Rubio said the island “must get power crews in ASAP.”
“He clearly doesn’t want to talk about Puerto Rico,” former Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said in an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. “You know what, more than 3.5 million American citizens, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands. Not interested. Doesn’t say a word about it. Now FEMA is down there.”
“I’ve called on them to send the Navy, particularly the naval hospital ship called U.S. Comfort,” Clinton said. “I really think that would be a big help. We don’t hear a word.”
Other politicians and celebrities who spoke out about the situation include Bette Midler, Sen. Ben Sasse, John Legend and Jennifer Lopez.
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