Donald Trump plans to travel to the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico amid criticism he has not paid enough attention to the American territory.
Successive storms have battered Puerto Rico, destroying infrastructure, costing lives and blanketing the country in darkness. Just weeks after Hurricane Irma skirted the island but cut off electricity to millions, Hurricane Maria swept through, bringing more blackouts and deaths. Authorities had to evacuate thousands as a crucial dam threatened to fail.
Mr Trump said on Tuesday that the island had been “literally destroyed” but predicted “they’ll be back”. He added that Puerto Rico’s residents – who are US citizens – are “important to all of us”. The administration announced that it was augmenting its effort by sending more money for debris removal and other emergency measures.
“We have shipped massive amounts of food and water and supplies to Puerto Rico and we are continuing to do it on an hourly basis. But that island was hit as hard as you could hit”, Mr Trump said. “The infrastructure is in bad shape, as you know, in Puerto Rico, before the storm and now in many cases it has no infrastructure”, he added, “so you’re really starting from almost scratch.”
While Mr Trump said he was visiting as early as the situation allowed, critics have faulted the president for being slow to address the devastation. Puerto Rican pop star Marc Anthony lashed out, and a former spokesman for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton – and vocal Trump detractor – accused the president of “racist neglect”.
Trump’s racist neglect of Puerto Rico is threatening lives. It is time to start caring about the crisis there.
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) September 25, 2017
In the six days since Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, Mr Trump has tweeted more than 70 times, using his preferred medium of communication to weigh in on an Alabama Senate race, bash intransigent Republicans and former opponent Hillary Clinton, and provoke a furor by lashing out at NFL players who do not stand for the national anthem.
Within that flurry of activity, Mr Trump mentioned Puerto Rico a total of five times. After writing on the day the hurricane barreled in that “We are with you and the people of Puerto Rico. Stay safe!” – the 16th tweet he composed that day – he did not mention the island for days.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to refute accusations that the president’s focus…