Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

President Trump Attacks Puerto Rico, Threatens To Pull Emergency Responders

President Trump Attacks Puerto Rico, Threatens To Pull Emergency Responders

Puerto Rico is struggling to recover after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island, leaving 44 people dead and cutting power and running water to much of its population, and its governor this week appealed to Trump for billions in additional federal aid.

Earlier Thursday, the president quoted a journalist with the conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group as suggesting the island shared in the responsibility for the plight of its citizens.

Puerto Rico has been reeling since Hurricane Maria struck three weeks ago. Disaster costs are expected to run into the tens of billions of dollars.

Puerto Rico is burdened with almost $72 billion in pre-hurricane debt being overseen by a federally created oversight board.

Perry said that Trump most likely meant that FEMA has a "finite mission and a finite amount of time".

"My argument to him was, I have some ideas, but there are people who have even more, better ones, because they live or lived in Puerto Rico, they understand its politics, its economics, its pre-existing challenges and its long-term opportunities", he said.

"They're a very important part of who we are", he said, later adding: "(Puerto Rico) should not be abandoned".

The legislative aid package totals $36.5 billion and sticks close to a White House request.

Democrats objected to the tone of Mr. Trump's tweets, saying the posts didn't sufficiently acknowledge the magnitude of the disaster gripping Puerto Rico. He said federal responders could not stay in the territory "forever".

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Forty-five deaths in Puerto Rico have been blamed on Maria, about 85 percent of Puerto Rico residents still lack electricity and the government says it hopes to have electricity restored completely by March. "@RealDonaldTrump seems more anxious about blaming hurricane victims than helping them". Puerto Rico has about 24 industrial waste sites contaminated by industries including pesticides and battery recycling. "But what's the alternative?" he said.

In a statement in which he also asked Congress for more financial assistance, Rossello updated the toll released on Tuesday after another person died due to a fractured skull. Authorities told CNN on Wednesday that the death toll had gone up to 45, but at least some 113 people were still unaccounted for.

"It's not easy when you're used to living in an American way of life, and then somebody tells you that you're going to be without power for six or eight months", said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, who represents Puerto Rico as a nonvoting member of Congress.

The Trump administration has come under attack by critics who say federal help was slow to arrive in Puerto Rico. But the source conceded the optics of the president's handling of the crisis in Puerto Rico have been "terrible".

As for the issue of accountability, the president may have been referring to reports of inefficiency and mismanagement among Puerto Rico's local governments. In the meantime, he said he thinks Congress will find money to help Puerto Rico avert the cliff.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, testifying before the House financial services committee, said that he has "no intention" of abandoning recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.

The nation could "rally" to focus on Puerto Rico's long-neglected economic problems.

Major League Baseball has raised over $15 million in aid so far to help people that have been affected by the storm as well as those impacted by the quake in Mexico.

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