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    Damaged electrical installations are seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria en Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017

    Is Trump’s Indifference Toward Puerto Rico Political Payback?

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    As Puerto Rico is struggling to cope with its largest humanitarian catastrophe in over a century, US President Donald Trump seems rather reluctant to address the issue. Some argue this is his vengeance for the 2016 election.

    The island was damaged so badly by Hurricane Maria that it has been left entirely without electricity, complete with all pleasures of a blackout, such as an almost total lack of communications and a non-functional airport. At least 16 people are known to have died.

    Reports are clear: this US territory is currently in dire need of hurricane relief aid.

    Trump, meanwhile, has displayed an outstanding lack of compassion for the island, sparking a wave of media criticism for barely reacting to the humanitarian catastrophe.

    "The response seems to be very little so far compared to other disasters on the mainland," Jorge Duany, a Florida International University professor with expertise in both Cuba and Puerto Rico said, according to the Miami Herald. "There's a lot of politics behind it."

    Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico September 20. One week later, hurricane relief staff are nowhere to be seen. According to a Miami Herald report, the only officials who have came to the troubled island are Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert and FEMA administrator Brock Long. Their mission was to "'assess the situation and… inform the White House about what is needed most,' as if hurricane relief were a mystery," the report reads.

    Earlier this week, Trump sparked a new round of condemnation after he posted several tweets about Puerto Rico but sandwiched them in the middle of a rant about NFL football players who refused to stand for the national anthem.

    The Independent provides us with the statistics:

    "In the six days since Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, Mr. Trump has tweeted more than 70 times… […]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."

    And the three tweets that have come some five days after the tragedy and which have received massive media coverage, were "pretty passionate" (in a sarcastic sense), according to the Vanity Fair:

    "Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble," he wrote. "It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars…owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities — and doing well."

    ​​The mention of Puerto Rico's debt outraged Trump's critics, who were fast to unearth a golf course scandal from earlier this year, claiming Trump owes the island $33 million for the golf course bankruptcy. Politifact, however, determined last May that Trump came late to the struggling business and was relatively distantly involved in it.

    Apparently, Twitter has become the best means of communication with US government. It took San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz posting a tweet to POTUS' account with a public call for help before Trump finally announced he'd schedule a visit to the island — but no sooner than October 3, two weeks after the disaster. This is in rather stark contrast to the president's visits to Texas and Florida, which both happened less than seven days after hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the corresponding states — a move that the Guardian specifically described as an attempt not to repeat George W. Bush's 2005 mistake with Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans.

    "Trump's overriding political challenge in Houston and Louisiana, however, will be to not resemble Bush in the wake of Katrina. Bush appeared slow to respond, detached from the suffering and deluded in his confidence in Michael Brown, the hapless head of FEMA in 2005. "‘Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job,' said Bush, misplaced praise which haunted the rest of his presidency," the Guardian reported earlier in September.

    "Puerto Rico needs a lot of money; I am going to Puerto Rico on [next] Tuesday," Trump told White House reporters, referring to his highly delayed visit. "It's the earliest I can go because of the first responders, and we don't want to disrupt the relief efforts."

    Apparently, Trump is not going out of his way to provide the hurricane relief or even show much compassion for the Island of Enchantment. Why is that happening? Well, according to the Miami Herald, Trump is doing it on purpose.

    "Most likely, the malaise is political payback," the website reads.

    According to the website, 72 percent of Puerto Ricans living in Florida voted in favor of Hillary Clinton; Puerto Ricans were even considered Clinton's "secret weapon" to win votes in the state.

    The Miami Herald also compared the performances of Trump and George W. Bush, but in the sense that Maria might cost Trump what he tried to avoid in Houston and Florida.

    "Nine months into his presidency, President Trump doesn't get it: He now represents everyone — and that includes Puerto Ricans, on the mainland and on the island," Miami Herald insists.

    "We are US citizens that just a few weeks ago went to the aid of other U.S. citizens even as we're going through our fiscal downturn and as we were hit by another storm," Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló told The Washington Post.

    "This is a major disaster, not unlike Katrina or Sandy. There is going to be a hefty toll for us to make sure that we can reestablish normalcy and build Puerto Rico back stronger," he added.


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    humanitarian catastrophe, politics, Hurricane Maria, Twitter, Donald Trump, United States, Puerto Rico
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