US President, Donald Trump and first lady, Melania visited Puerto Rico on Tuesday, two weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the Island.
The President spent much of his time on the island patting his administration on the back for how well it is handling everything.
“You can be very proud. Everybody around this table and everybody watching can really be very proud of what’s been taking place in Puerto Rico,” he said.
The news had preceded by quick criticism at his administration’s slow response left the residents out of power and basic necessities. So, majority of the residents believe he is too late.
“He’s pretty late”, Bethsaida Colón said Monday as she waited in a wheelchair in line at the airport, bound for New York. “His general came here eight days late.”
Two weeks after it hit the state, only 5 percent of the electrical grid has been repaired, only 17 percent of cellphone towers are working, and more than half of residents don’t have running water.
“He should have come sooner. What we’re living here is a crisis,” Michael Garcia, 26, of Mayagüez on the west coast of the island, said in Spanish.
Garcia, who has two young children, was returning to the island for the first time since the storm hit on Sept. 20 — after being stuck on the mainland while on vacation in Orlando, Florida.
The international aid group Oxfam has announced it is joining the recovery effort on Puerto Rico, and accused the Trump administration of a “slow and inadequate response” to the crisis.
“We are outraged at the slow and inadequate response the US government has mounted in Puerto Rico,” Abby Maxman, the president of Oxfam America, said in a statement.
The group said it would pursue “a two-pronged response” of lobbying Congress and federal agencies to send more resources and waive barriers to that aid. Oxfam has also sent a team to assess and counter the risks of unsafe water, areas without shelter, and cholera and other diseases.
Only about a quarter of Puerto Rican households are expected to regain power by next month and about half currently have no running water, Governor Ricardo Rosselló told at a news conference on Monday.
Cell-phone communication has remained an issue, with mobile service re-established to only about a third of the island.
Even in metropolitan San Juan, cell coverage remains spotty in areas and debris from trees and other rubble lined the roads. People have to pull over their cars on the shoulder of the highway near the airport in the hopes of getting cell service.
Statistics released by the Puerto Rico Police Department this week showed that 18 homicides occurred in Puerto Rico the first 10 days after the storm, which hit on September 20, the same number in the period a year ago.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) has not authorized every disaster response tool it has at its disposal, including aid for more permanent repairs on the island’s roads, bridges, water control facilities, public utilities, and government buildings.
Under FEMA rules, the governor of the affected state is supposed to put in a formal request for this kind of extra help, submitted Tuesday morning.
If President Trump wanted to, he could fast-track FEMA’s response in Puerto Rico. He could even authorize the federal government to rebuild the island. But there’s no sign that he intends to.
The Stafford Act, which gives FEMA authority to carry out emergency missions, also gives the President broad discretion in guiding the agency’s efforts: The president “may provide accelerated federal assistance and federal support where necessary to save lives, prevent human suffering, or mitigate severe damage” even without “a specific request”.
There have been rumors of looting, It is said that about eight people were arrested in the first days after the hurricane for violating curfew in ways that were obviously intended for criminal activity.
In the badly damaged northern coastal city of Arecibo, workers at the Pueblo supermarket said that people made off with liquor and cigarettes.
San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz has accepted the invitation to meet with Donald Trump, she has just announced in a statement. She said: “This is about saving lives, not about politics”.
Trump attacked Cruz at length over the weekend after she pleaded for help and criticized the administration’s characterization of Puerto Rico as a “good news story”.
“If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy,” Cruz said on Friday.
The president then accused her of poor leadership and said critics of his administration, which hesitated to waive restrictions on shipping to the island, were “politically motivated ingrates”.
Although, on Tuesday morning he said Cruz had “come back a long way”.
President Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico generated more resentment against his regime as his speech lacked any words of empathy or encouragement for the survivors.
The locals and media seemed triggered by his discriminatory act as he was taken to see the devastation in one of the wealthiest municipalities of the whole island: Guaynabo.
While he totally neglected Puerto Rico, Trump reminds us that there is a pecking order – and it’s the rich and powerful living in gated communities who come before all others.