Trump threatens to end Maria recovery effort
WASHINGTON — President Trump served notice Thursday that he may pull back federal relief workers from Puerto Rico, effectively threatening to abandon the U.S. territory amid a staggering humanitarian crisis in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Declaring the U.S. territory’s electrical grid and infrastructure to have been a “disaster before hurricanes,” Trump wrote Thursday that it will be up to Congress how much federal money to appropriate to the island for its recovery efforts and that relief workers will not stay “forever.”
On Thursday, the House approved a $36.5 billion aid package that would provide hurricane and wildfire relief funding while bailing out the financially troubled National Flood Insurance Program. The aid package would also help Puerto Rico avoid running out of cash. The disaster package now awaits consideration in the Senate
Three weeks after Maria made landfall, much of Puerto Rico, an island of 3.4 million people, remains without power. Residents struggle to find clean water, hospitals are running short on medicine, and commerce is slow, with many businesses closed.
Trump on Thursday sought to shame the territory for its own plight. He tweeted, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes.” And he quoted Sharyl Attkisson, a television journalist, as saying, “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.”
He also wrote: “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of the capital city, San Juan, also tweeted a response, saying Trump “did not get it” and that he was “incapable of fulfilling the moral imperative” of helping the territory’s people. Cruz, who has been feuding publicly with Trump, called the president a “Hater in Chief.”
Puerto Rico National Guard soldiers unload a helicopter carrying relief supplies in Jayuya. Most residents have no power or drinking water.