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Editorial: Puerto Rico deserves better than Trump - The Pitt News

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Editorial: Puerto Rico deserves better than Trump

President+Donald+Trump+and+the+First+Lady+Melania+arrive+at+Muniz+Air+National+Guard+Base+in+Carolina%2C+Puerto+Rico+on+Oct.+3%2C+2017%2C+almost+two+weeks+after+hurricane+Maria+hit+the+island.+They+met+with+residents+there+to+greet+the+President.+%28Carolyn+Cole%2FLos+Angeles+Times%2FTNS%29
President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania arrive at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on Oct. 3, 2017, almost two weeks after hurricane Maria hit the island. They met with residents there to greet the President. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania arrive at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on Oct. 3, 2017, almost two weeks after hurricane Maria hit the island. They met with residents there to greet the President. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

TNS

TNS

President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania arrive at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on Oct. 3, 2017, almost two weeks after hurricane Maria hit the island. They met with residents there to greet the President. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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President Donald Trump’s criticism of Puerto Rico’s pre-Hurricane Maria infrastructure compelled The Pitt News to speak out against his divisive rhetoric last week and emphasize the real need for aid in Puerto Rico.

We feel compelled yet again this week to speak out against the president’s comments.  

When Trump finally arrived in Puerto Rico yesterday, nearly two weeks after Maria made landfall, he took his chance once again to play politics with a suffering U.S. territory. He said Puerto Rico should be “very proud” that the death count was only “16 versus literally thousands of people,” who died in “a real catastrophe like Katrina.”

Even if you try to find the silver lining in his statement, where he praised the people of Puerto Rico for “working together,” he proceeded to blame the territory for our nation’s much broader budgetary problems.

“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack,” he said, adding that “at a local level, [Puerto Rico] has to give us much more help.”

But like with much of what Trump says, these shameful comments may come to hurt him.

First, Trump’s point of pride may simply be false. Omaya Sosa Pascual, the founder of the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico, reported because death certificates weren’t being processed quickly enough, the government hadn’t updated the official death count in seven days. After Trump’s remarks on Tuesday, AP reported the official death toll rose to 36, but the actual number may still be higher. After investigating several hospitals in the region, CPI found at least 26 had died at the Veteran’s Hospital — and there may be dozens, if not hundreds, more across the U.S. territory.

But final death count aside, Trump should not blame Puerto Rico for how much Hurricane Maria cost the government. After Hurricane Harvey struck Texas, the Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the use of every disaster response tool at its disposal 10 days after the hurricane struck.

It has been two weeks and Puerto Rico still has not received equivalent assistance.

Even if Puerto Rico costs the U.S. government more than Texas or Florida, Trump’s criticism is unjustified. Most estimates put Puerto Rico’s damages between $30 billion and $80 billion, but FEMA was authorized to spend a mere $15 billion on hurricane relief on all of the season’s recent hurricanes. The spending Trump is worried about will fix little compared to the damage done, but with the help of international organizations and committed communities, it could be a key component.

But the first step is to take the issue of Puerto Rico’s disaster seriously — something Trump seemed incapable of doing. He spent his first visit to the territory tossing rolls of paper towels into the crowd like he was passing out free T-shirts at a baseball game. What he seems to forget is that Puerto Ricans are American citizens too, and that providing life-saving aid isn’t as simple as being a mascot.

 

 

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Editorial: Puerto Rico deserves better than Trump