Trump Warns Storm-Ravaged Puerto Rico That Aid Won’t Last ‘Forever’
“Our country will stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done,” Mr. Kelly said. The president, he asserted, merely meant that eventually the federal government would complete its mission. “The whole point is to start to work yourself out of a job,” he said.
Shortly after, his deputy, Kirstjen Nielsen, in accepting Mr. Trump’s nomination to succeed Mr. Kelly as secretary of homeland security, added her own soothing words. “I also know that this rebuilding will take years, and I want to echo what the president has said many times: We will remain fully engaged in the long recovery effort ahead of us,” she said in the East Room.
But Mr. Trump did not say that on Thursday, even given the opportunity to clarify at the ceremony formally announcing Ms. Nielsen’s nomination. Instead, his message provoked another wave of criticism from the island and its supporters. They expressed astonishment that Mr. Trump would assail the very people he was supposed to be assisting, in contrast to the tone he has taken with Florida and Texas, where National Guard troops and Federal Emergency Management Agency workers are also still helping with hurricane recovery.
Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan who has been critical of Mr. Trump’s response and rebuked by him in return, condemned his latest message as adding “insult to injury” and called on international organizations to step in to prevent “the genocide that will result from” Mr. Trump’s inaction.
“Tweet away your hate to mask your administration’s mishandling of this humanitarian crisis,” she said, addressing the president. “While you are amusing yourself throwing paper towels at us, your compatriots and the world are sending love and help our way. Condemn us to a slow death of nondrinkable water, lack of food, lack of medicine while you keep others eager to help from reaching us.”
Mr. Rosselló was more restrained, as he has been through previous rounds of criticism by Mr. Trump. “I reiterate my plea that, as U.S. citizens, we are not asking for better treatment or less treatment,” he said. “We are asking for equal treatment. We’re not asking for anything that another U.S. jurisdiction, having passed through the same situation, wouldn’t be asking at this juncture.”
Three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, 83 percent of the island was still without power, 36 percent had no running water and 45 percent was without telecommunication services.
Hospitals are operating on generator power, which is expensive and unreliable. Although 86 percent of supermarkets are now open, the government could not ensure that they were fully stocked. And major roadways have been cleared of debris, but many Puerto Ricans are still relying on FEMA for food and water delivered to neighborhoods by local governments.