Trump touts ‘fantastic job’ in Puerto Rico, where Maria killed nearly 3,000
President Trump on Wednesday claimed his administration did a “fantastic job” in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria -- even though the island’s governor had announced a day earlier that nearly 3,000 people died in the devastating storm.
“I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We have put billions and billions of dollars into Puerto Rico. It was a very tough one.”
The president added, “I think most of the people in Puerto Rico really appreciate what we’ve done.”
Trump also falsely claimed it was far harder to restore power to Puerto Rico after Maria because the island’s Electric Power Authority was “shut” before the hurricane hit.
“The electric plant was dead before,” Trump said. “That wasn’t really the hurricane, it was gone before the hurricane.”
Despite Trump’s assertion, the electric plant was fully functional ahead of the hurricane, although it is still more than $9 billion in debt.
Trump’s comments came a day after Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said his administration was updating Hurricane Maria’s official death toll from 64 to 2,975 following the release of an independent study conducted by George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health.
Critics ripped Trump over his latest remarks.
“To suggest your Administration did a ‘fantastic job’ in Puerto Rico is an affront not just to the families of the 2,975 Puerto Rican people who died after Maria, but to all residents of the Island and to all Americans!” Rep. Nydia Velazqeuz, D-N.Y., tweeted.
Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s capital, said Trump’s remarks show he’s “incapable of feeling solidarity and empathy.”
“It is your fault, Mr. President. ... You left us here to die because you were more concerned of the political spin than about the healing reality that we were dying and now that number, 2975, will follow him wherever he goes for the rest of his life,” Cruz said during an appearance on MSNBC.
Trump’s Wednesday comments were a far cry from his rhetoric in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Days after the hurricane made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, Trump traveled to the island and criticized local leaders for throwing their “budget a little out of whack,” saying residents should be “proud” only 16 people died, as the government estimated at the time, as opposed to a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina.
Katrina, which hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005, killed 1,833 people.
Cruz and other local leaders have accused the Trump administration of responding slower to Maria than it did to Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida.
“Mr. Trump, do your job,” Cruz said at a news conference in November 2017. “Lives are at stake.”
At least 1,000 Puerto Ricans were still without power as of earlier this month, according to local authorities.