On Puerto Rico, Trump Is Right

Federico Mansilla
Setiembre 14, 2018

A small number of Republicans seemed to side with the president.

"Casualties don't make a person look bad", Ryan told reporters at a regular press conference, "so I have no reason to dispute these numbers". She then added, "It's sad to me that a natural disaster has to get political, I don't think President Trump is exclusively to blame for what happened, Puerto Rico had a number of its own problems before Maria even hit, they were filing for bankruptcy". He says old people who died were "just added to the list".

Especially upset were GOP politicians in Florida, a state with a substantial Puerto Rican population.

The emergency response to Maria became highly politicized as the Trump administration was criticised as being slow to recognise the extent of the devastation and too sluggish in providing disaster relief to Puerto Rico, an island of more than 3 million residents. "The loss of any life is tragic". He added that shipping the supplies back to the USA for use in future disasters was "cost prohibitive", and said, "Anytime we waste water, that's something we try absolutely not to do".

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And yet, per his tweets, somehow the president is the victim in all this.

"3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico", he wrote. "Direct" deaths include such fatalities as drownings in a storm surge or being crushed in a wind-toppled building. Last month, Rossello accepted the study's conclusion that almost 3,000 people died as a result of the storm's effects. On Thursday, Trump insisted in a pair of tweets that the official death toll was concocted by "Democrats" as part of a conspiracy to "make me look as bad as possible". It was commissioned by Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, and was conducted by experts at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health. The university issued a statement Thursday, saying it stood by that study. It added that the study "was carried out with complete independence and freedom from any kind of interference". Infrastructure failures and political confusion appear to have contributed to deaths even months after the storm hit, as GW's study found a lasting spike in mortality rates, especially in poor areas that proved harder to reach in the aftermath of the storm.

The report said numerous deaths occurred weeks later because of devastating damage to the Caribbean island's electrical grid that curbed treatment for those with life-threatening injuries or medical conditions.

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