First Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, now US President Trump is set to make landfall. Two weeks after a devastating storm rocked the island, Trump, critical of Puerto Rican officials, will make his first visit.
The Caribbean island nation of Puerto Rico is still reeling from the effects of a massive hurricane that rocked it on September 20. The US territory suffered a total collapse of infrastructure that left several dead and millions without power, telephone service, access to transportation, food and water.
Government officials who described the situation as "apocalyptic” have not updated the death toll, which currently stands at 16, since last week, simply because the situation is so chaotic. Much higher numbers of dead are expected as a more complete overview of the situation becomes possible. Hurricane Maria was the strongest storm to hit the island in 90 years.
The storm has turned into a humanitarian crisis that local leaders have been slow to master despite help from the US military and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That situation has only fueled Puerto Rican assertions that the US sees the island, which is a US territory, as a home to second class citizens. Puerto Rican residents are US citizens but they are not allowed to vote in US elections. Residents have pointed to more comprehensive assistance for Texas and Florida in the wake of hurricanes that blasted both US states in the weeks prior to Maria to bolster those assertions.
Addressing questions about the pace of US relief efforts, John Rabin, acting administrator for the FEMA division that oversees Puerto Rico said: "It's not that it was ‘slow'; it's ‘complex,' is the way I would describe it.”
The island nation has also borne the brunt of a wholly different type of storm over the course of the last two weeks, namely a tweet storm unleashed by US President Donald Trump. After Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico's capital San Juan, asked for help and dared criticize the slow US response to the crisis she became the object of Trump's infamous temper. The US president has released no fewer than 18 tweets regarding Puerto Rico, many criticizing the mayor's "poor leadership abilities,” and repeatedly decrying "Fake News” and even blaming the Democratic party for smearing US relief efforts.
US President Trump speaks with reporters about Puerto Rico after returning from a weekend spent at a golf tournament at his New Jersey residence
It is not clear whether Trump will meet with Mayor Yulin Cruz during his Tuesday visit, though he will no doubt meet the territory's governor, Ricardo Rossello.
The island nation has also been in dire financial straits for some time, owing the US government some $70 million (64 million euros). Due to its special status, however, the island cannot declare bankruptcy. Early estimates are that the country will need more than $60 million for reconstruction after the storm.
js/rc (dpa, Reuters)