Trump is complaining about Puerto Rico, even though his administration isn’t doing enough to help the commonwealth
The American territory of Puerto Rico is still reeling from a massive hurricane that nearly destroyed the island’s infrastructure — but President Donald Trump is indicating that he’s done caring about the people there.
First: Saying that Puerto Rico has survived the hurricane stretches the definition of the word “survive” past its breaking point. Forty-five people are confirmed dead. At least 113 remain unaccounted for. Much of the island remains without power and water, and hospitals continue to struggle to remain viable, according to CNN. The hurricanes may not be actively slamming the island anymore, but every single person in Puerto Rico is still reeling from their impact.
Trump has been rightly criticized for not doing more to help the island. Most notably, he was initially slow to waive the Jones Act, a 1920 law that made it illegal for ships to transport goods between American ports unless both vessels were American. That law, which made it difficult for relief to get to Puerto Rico, was temporarily waived — only for Trump to allow that waiver to expire earlier this week.
Trump’s tweets attacking Puerto Rico have certainly not helped matters. Many Puerto Ricans were incensed by Trump’s earlier tweets attacking San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and arguing that the island’s elected leaders “want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
“I can tell you President Trump’s tweet attacking many on the island will be a major factor in how a lot of folks arriving here will perceive the political system. Those tweets are like a spectre overshadowing a lot of other efforts, at least in the minds of many people I’ve spoken to,” Florida Rep. Darren Soto told The Guardian.
Trump was also criticized for his visit to the island, during which he focused mainly on discussing himself, repeated false right-wing conspiracy theories (such as the claim that goods weren’t being delivered because truck drivers were striking, even though it’s because the roads are impassable), blaming Puerto Ricans for having “thrown our budget a little out of whack” and casually tossed paper towels to his audience as if he were an emperor helping peons.
Not all presidents have abdicated leadership like Trump during a crisis like this one.
“[Franklin] Roosevelt was the president, and as you know, he was surrounded by a brain trust of people who were there to serve their fellow Americans in a time of crisis,” Dr. Luis Martínez-Fernández, a historian who specializes in Puerto Rican history, previously told Salon. “Roosevelt, and particularly through Eleanor Roosevelt, had a very intimate relationship with the progressive leadership of Puerto Rico during the 1930s. I’m referring mainly to the leader of the progressive faction, Luis Muñoz Marín.”
Martínez-Fernández told Salon that the type of program most likely to help Puerto Rico would be similar to what Roosevelt implemented during the 1930s — a latter day New Deal that emphasized clean up, rebuilding infrastructure and preparing for thousands of refugees. So far, the aid packages to Puerto Rico have been in the form of loans that the island would eventually have to pay back.