Trump sug­gests help for Puerto Rico could end

The Columbus Dispatch - - Nation&world - By Philip Rucker, Arelis R. Hernández and Manuel Roig-Franzia

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump served no­tice Thurs­day that he might even­tu­ally with­draw fed­eral re­lief work­ers from Puerto Rico, and he blamed the is­land for its fail­ing in­fra­struc­ture, ef­fec­tively threat­en­ing to aban­don the U.S. ter­ri­tory amid a stag­ger­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in the af­ter­math of twin hur­ri­canes.

Un­der with­er­ing crit­i­cism from Puerto Ri­cans for his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s flawed re­sponse to the dev­as­ta­tion there, Trump sought to hold the ter­ri­tory re­spon­si­ble for its plight be­cause of chronic mis­man­age­ment.

That prompted an im­me­di­ate back­lash from Puerto Ri­cans and main­land law­mak­ers in both par­ties.

More than a month af­ter Hur­ri­cane Irma swept ashore and three weeks af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria de­liv­ered a crush­ing blow, much of Puerto Rico re­mains with­out power, and many of its 3.4 mil­lion res­i­dents still are strug­gling to find clean water, hospi­tals are short on medicine, com­merce is slow and ba­sic ser­vices are un­avail­able.

In a trio of Thurs­day morn­ing tweets, Trump de­clared, “Elec­tric and all in­fra­struc­ture [in Puerto Rico] was dis­as­ter be­fore hur­ri­canes.” He said it would be up to Con­gress how much fed­eral money to ap­pro­pri­ate for re­cov­ery ef­forts there, and, in an ex­tra­or­di­nary state­ment by an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent, he warned that re­lief work­ers would not stay “for­ever.”

“We can­not keep FEMA, the Mil­i­tary & the First Re­spon­ders, who have been amaz­ing (un­der the most dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances) in P.R. for­ever!” Trump tweeted.

Crit­ics con­trasted Trump’s com­ments about Puerto Rico and its lead­ers — dur­ing a visit there last week he com­plained that the re­cov­ery had “thrown our bud­get a lit­tle out of whack” — with the em­pa­thy he showed af­ter storms rav­aged Texas, Louisiana and Flor­ida.

On the is­land, res­i­dents and elected of­fi­cials re­sponded to Trump’s Thurs­day tweets with out­rage and dis­be­lief.

“The U.S. ci­ti­zens in Puerto Rico are re­quest­ing the sup­port that any of our fel­low ci­ti­zens would re­ceive across our Na­tion,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ri­cardo Ros­selló, who has pub­licly praised Trump’s han­dling of the cri­sis, tweeted in ap­par­ent re­sponse to the pres­i­dent.

Car­men Yulín Cruz, the mayor of Puerto Rico’s cap­i­tal, San Juan, who has been feud­ing pub­licly with Trump, strongly con­demned the pres­i­dent’s tweets. In a tweet of her own, she de­rided him as a “Hater in Chief.” And she ar­gued in a state­ment that he “is sim­ply in­ca­pable of un­der­stand­ing the con­tri­bu­tions, the sac­ri­fices and the com­mit­ment to demo­cratic val­ues that Puerto Ri­cans have shown over decades.”

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