By Nikko Rodriguez
On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria directly hit an island three times smaller than the size of Rhode Island: Puerto Rico. Maria strengthened as it began its route towards Puerto Rico and residents scramble as they prepared as best as they could for the most destructive storm the island had seen in 85 years. The storm wreaked havoc on a not only the island, but also an extensive part of the population. Desperate people are now without power and proper drinking water.
While this little United States territory suffers, the President, rather than focus attention on their needs decided was more important to take to social media and belittle athletes of various professional sports. For several days, he went on a rant about the protests of NFL players, without once mentioning the need of these people – as if he does not know they are his own citizens. After not hearing from Trump for several days, he did briefly bring up Puerto Rico at a conference while discussing his new travel ban – however, he still does not mention their needs. . Several days later, while water was being delivered to Puerto Rican ports, Trump finally spoke out in the only way he knows how, Twitter. “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble.” His tweet shows how little he knows about the country and territory he is actually responsible for.
The reason why Puerto Rico has a massive debt is because of something called the Jones Act. This is a law that regulates the shipping of cargo between two United States ports; it must be done with an American ship to avoid tax and tariff penalties. Something Trump continues to ignore when asked about waiving the act. Another thing Trump may want to take into consideration when pointing fingers at their “massive debt” is that Puerto Rico has no bankruptcy laws in place, so they have no way out.
After Trump’s insensitive comments and clearly incoherent knowledge of the situation, the mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz responded with a plea for help: “We are dying here. If we don’t get the food and the water into the people’s hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide.” The response that Cruz got was not what she expected, Trump took to Twitter once again. He criticized her stating “poor leadership ability.” He also said, “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.” I’m certain that Trump has no idea that the “nasty” woman he was referring to actually waded waist deep through her city, in contaminated water, with a bullhorn looking for survivors, while he was golfing on vacation. After many false reports about the help and supplies being sent by Trump–which was never confirmed by any federal agency–he finally made landfall in Puerto Rico. A full week and a half after the disaster, the president held a nicely staged press conference and jokingly stated, ‘“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack.” Shortly after that ridiculous attempt at comic relief, Trump tossed out supplies to a large crowd of people – as if he was making free throws on a basketball court. After the press conference and paper towel charade he was off, he never actually toured the island and never made any more of an effort to help.
While supplies and help are slowly progressing, our government is still blind to the urgency of relief. I am certain the rebuilding will proceed without the help of Trump, but rather through the acts of bravery and strength of the Puerto Rican people.