Donald Trump Just Threatened to Leave Puerto Ricans to Die

Donald Trump Just Threatened to Leave Puerto Ricans to Die

Donald Trump Just Threatened to Leave Puerto Ricans to Die

As FEMA warns of massive food shortages, Trump says the island has “survived” the hurricanes and shouldn’t expect help “forever.”


The Guardian reports that Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are warning of extreme food shortages in Puerto Rico, as the island continues to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The agency can provide 200,000 meals a day, but at least 2 million are needed. “We are 1.8 million meals short,” a senior official told The Guardian. “That is why we need the urgency. And it’s not going away. We’re doing this much today, but it has to be sustained over several months.”

How did President Trump respond? By tweeting that the commonwealth has “survived” the hurricanes, but now is suffering from problems of its own making. Puerto Rico woke up to this tweetstorm on Thursday:

No one is suggesting that FEMA or other first responders should remain in Puerto Rico “forever.” But even as his own agency officials are sounding alarms, Trump is plugging his ears. And here’s a bonus, a sop to his right-wing base: He’s quoting Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS News reporter known for hyping Obama administration non-scandals from Operation Fast and Furious to Benghazi. When she left the network, she chided it for its anti-GOP bias and has since migrated from a Heritage Foundation “news” blog to right-wing Sinclair Broadcasting, where she belongs. Attkisson is Trump’s source for the notion that Puerto Rico has “survived” the hurricanes and is now merely dealing with its own poor management.

Let’s remember: The president ignored the suffering Puerto Ricans for over a week, acting as though the island were a faraway rumor surrounded by “big water,” not a part of the United States within easy reach by plane or boat. When criticized, he replied with victim-blaming, trashing the commonwealth for its debt and infrastructure problems (which have been exacerbated by greedy banks), and then attacking San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz for correctly asking for help. He grabbed a racist bullhorn to tweet old stereotypes about Puerto Ricans, that “they want everything to be done for them” and refuse to help themselves. But after Trump finally visited the island, where he threw paper towels to a crowd like the sociopath he is, he seemed to understand the tragedy there. He even began making noises about getting creditors to forgive the island’s debt.

“We have to look at their whole debt structure,” he told Fox’s Geraldo Rivera. “You know, they owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street, and we’re going to have to wipe that out. You can say goodbye to that. I don’t know if it’s Goldman Sachs, but whoever it is, you can wave goodbye to that.” As Energy Secretary Rick Perry might say: “Oops.”

Budget director Mick Mulvaney immediately clarified Trump’s remarks. “I wouldn’t take it word for word with that,” the director of the Office of Management and Budget told CNN. “Puerto Rico is going to have to figure out how to fix the errors that it’s made for the last generation on its own finances.” And so today the president is back on message, trashing the commonwealth for creating its own problems, rather than recognizing that its problems are all of our making.

The food crisis The Guardian revealed is real—and terrifying. More than a third of the island has no drinkable water. Most of the meals distributed are military MREs, which can’t suddenly become the mainstay of civilian diets without severe digestive problems. And in a very Trumpian irony, the largest provider of cooked meals to FEMA has lost its contract. It is run by Jose Andres, the Latino celebrity chef who backed out of a deal to run the hotel in Trump’s Washington, DC, property after he launched his presidential candidacy with insults to Mexicans. Andres’s World Central Kitchen’s contract with FEMA just expired, and there’s no news on if or when it will be renewed.

“There is no urgency in the government response to this humanitarian crisis,” Andrés said. “They have all the officials and armed guards at headquarters, but they have no information about the island. They don’t even have a map they can share about who needs food. FEMA is over-paying and it is under-delivering.”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz woke up to Trump’s vindictive tweets on Thursday, and she texted a long message to Representative Luis Gutierrez of Chicago, who shared it with reporters. I’m going to let the mayor have the last word here.

I ask every American that has love, and not hate in their hearts, to stand with Puerto Rico and let this President know we WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE. I ask the United Nations, UNICEF and the world to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and stop the genocide that will result from the lack of appropriate action of a President that just does not get it because he has been incapable of looking in our eyes and seeing the pride that burns fiercely in our hearts and souls.

No one needs an invitation to help, to feed the hungry, to cure the sick, to give a helping hand to those in need. Simply put: HELP US. WITHOUT ROBUST and CONSISTENT HELP WE WILL DIE.

Mr. President fulfill your moral imperative towards the people of Puerto Rico.


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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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