Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
The official death toll from last year’s disastrous hurricanes in Puerto Rico that destroyed huge swathes of the island and left millions of people without power, clean water, or health care for months has officially been updated to 2,975, confirming long-held suspicions of experts and people on the ground who knew the government’s previous tallies were nowhere near close to the real total.
But to hear it from President Donald Trump, everything went according to plan. On Wednesday, he told CNN’s Jim Acosta, “I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico.”
Trump’s remarks outraged San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been fighting for the recovery of her island and literally waded through raw sewage to search for survivors in the aftermath.
“He just doesn’t get it, he’s incapable of getting it,” said Cruz on MSNBC. “We died because bureaucracy and inefficiency took a hold of things. We died because many in the political class in Puerto Rico decided to dance to Donald Trump’s tune, rather than doing what everybody ought to do, which is tell the truth, no matter how mighty the person that you’re telling the truth seems.”
“These are 2,975 people that will no longer see the light of day,” she continued. “These are parents, children, grandchildren, grandparents, people whose lives will never be the same. And the onset of fear and lack of dignity in which the Trump administration continues to treat the people of Puerto Rico makes you mad, makes you angry, and makes you realize that this man — not that he doesn’t want to get it — is that he is incapable of feeling solidarity and empathy.”
JUST IN: San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz: President Trump saying “I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico” a day after Hurricane Maria death toll was officially increased to 2,975 shows the president is “incapable of feeling solidarity and empathy.” pic.twitter.com/hh0UYixCiW
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) August 29, 2018
Contrary to Trump’s rosy boasting, his administration bungled the response to the disaster in Puerto Rico on virtually every level.
Trump did not send nearly enough of the armed forces to help in the relief efforts — a tiny fraction of what was sent to help storm victims in Texas and Florida. His tour of the island ended with him awkwardly throwing paper towels at devastated families. He initially refused to lift a federal ban on certain foreign ships from unloading emergency supplies at Puerto Rican ports, then caved under public pressure, only to quietly let the restriction take effect again 10 days later. He did not order the Naval hospital ship USNS Comfort to assist Puerto Rico until being shamed into it by Hillary Clinton, then inexplicably allowed it to leave the island even though hospitals were still not equipped to treat all of the sick and injured. And after all of this, Trump signed a GOP tax bill that raises taxes on doing business in Puerto Rico.
During all of this, Trump found time to pick a fight with Cruz herself, accusing her of “poor leadership” and complaining that Puerto Ricans “want everything to be done for them.”
Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.