Humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands is becoming Trump’s ‘Katrina’ (updated)

While our always insecure egomaniacal Twitter-troll-in-chief has been busy this past week race-baiting professional athletes to shore up his white nationalist base, Trump’s N.F.L. Critique a Calculated Attempt to Shore Up His Base, or tweeting taunts threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea bringing us closer to war, or blaming Sen. John McCain for his own failure to follow through on his campaign promise to repeal “Obamacare,” Donald Trump has largely been silent about the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

It was not until Monday night, after taking a beating on the cable news networks all day for his lack of empathy and attention to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Trump finally must have realized that residents of these islands are U.S. Citizens. Trump declares Puerto Rico is in ‘deep trouble’ as questions mount about his commitment:

President Trump, facing mounting questions about his commitment to Puerto Rico’s recovery, took to Twitter on Monday night, saying the U.S. territory is “in deep trouble,” in part because of problems that predated Hurricane Maria.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 2.44.11 PM

Monday night’s tweets were the first from Trump about Puerto Rico since Wednesday, when the hurricane made landfall and Trump declared “we are with you.”

You can bet that this revelaton  had something to do with his favorite foil, Hillary Clinton, having criticized him for his lack of attention to the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“At the same time that he was doing all of that, we had American citizens in Puerto Rico who are in a desperate condition,” Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee Trump defeated last year, said in a radio interview on Monday. “He has not said one word about them, about other American citizens in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I’m not sure he knows that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.”

Clinton pressed Trump to deploy hospital ship Comfort to Puerto Rico. Now it’s on the way.

And some Republicans chimed in as well.

“There are millions of our fellow Americans on Puerto Rico facing great danger and suffering,” GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, a frequent Trump critic, said on Twitter on Monday. “Trump silence and inaction is appalling.”

According to a count by CNN, Trump tweeted about the NFL 24 times and Puerto Rico only four times between last Thursday and Tuesday.

UPDATE: Philip Bump of the Washington Post breaks down the Twitter-troll-in-chief’s tweets. It’s not complicated: Trump is more interested in NFL protests than the storm in Puerto Rico.

Continued.

Trump’s lack of public attention to Puerto Rico has been striking in part because of the major focus he put on helping Texas and Florida recover from earlier hurricanes, a factor many analysts have cited in explaining Trump’s recent uptick in his job approval numbers.

There is a cynical but obvious reason for this: Texas and Florida are states with large electoral votes that went for Trump. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands have no representation in Congress, and thus no electoral votes in presidential elections. The residents are also largely Hispanic, and we know how Trump feels about Hispanics.

UPDATE: Dana Milbank of the Washington Post makes this same point. The sad suspicion about Trump’s shameful treatment of Puerto Rico:

No question the logistics are harder in Puerto Rico. But the 3.4 million U.S. citizens there have long endured second-class status: no voting members of Congress, no presidential vote, unequal benefits and high poverty. Now, the Trump administration’s failure to help Americans in Puerto Rico with the same urgency it gave those in Texas and Florida furthers a sad suspicion that the disparate treatment has less to do with logistics than language and skin color.

Today President Trump held a news conference with visiting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain, in which he had his own G.W. Bush you’re doing a heckuva job Brownie moment. Trump touts administration’s ‘amazing job’ in Puerto Rico:

Trump, who has faced mounting questions about his commitment to addressing the island’s plight, announced that he would visit Puerto Rico next week to get a firsthand look at the “devastated” island, which remains without power and where residents are facing food shortages.

We’re doing a great job,” Trump said during a Rose Garden news conference with visiting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain. “Everybody has said it’s amazing the job we have done in Puerto Rico. This was a place that was destroyed. I think we’ve done a very good job.”

Trump just made himself “Brownie” (former FEMA director Michael Brown) with his egotistical self congratulations, eliminating the possibility of blaming a fall guy.

Trump’s assessment was at odds with many reports on the ground and ran counter to a growing chorus of critics, including lawmakers in both parties.

Let’s be clear: this is a humanitarian crisis and the federal response in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands has not been as robust as it has been in Texas and Florida. No gas. No food. No power. Puerto Ricans fear their future:

Power is out. Food is short. There’s not enough water to drink, let alone wash. A week after Hurricane Maria smashed Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, the situation is not much better. In many ways, it’s getting worse.

Hospitals that should be saving people are instead unable to provide care.

At the Canovanas Medical Center, doctors face a lack of supplies. Dr. Norbert Seda said they were running out of fuel for the generator and had only two or three days of medicine and supplies left.

While residents were prepared for the storm’s arrival and mercifully few were killed directly by the hurricane, the need for medical treatment is getting greater.

“We’ve seen a lot of trauma,” Dr. Seda said. “We need medication, antibiotics, tetanus shots, we’ve seen a lot of trauma basically, (we need) antibiotics and medication for hypertension.”

He’s not encountered people dying because of a lack of power and supplies … yet.

“It’s coming. When there’s a shortage of water and sanitation issues, it will come out. We are expecting something like that to happen.”

Lack of fuel is the key problem at San Jorge Children’s Hospital in San Juan, according to its executive director, Domingo Cruz Vivaldi.

“We are dealing with a crisis right now. The hospital is needing diesel every day — 2,000 gallons a day.
Yesterday, we ran out of diesel at 6 a.m. and we were without electricity at the hospital from 6 a.m. through 2 p.m. 8 hours without electricity.”

Without power, life-saving machines like ventilators have to run on emergency backup power.

Fears for the future are playing out across Puerto Rico.

Misery is stalking each and every one of the more than 3 million Americans there.

San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz sees a growing need for help for increasingly desperate people.

“We are finding dialysis patients that have not been able to contact their providers. We are having to transport them in near death conditions,” the mayor said. “We are finding people whose oxygen tanks are running out because our small generators now don’t have any diesel.”

Most alarming are the SOS messages, she said, “the ones that say ‘Can anyone hear me?’ The ones that say ‘I have no more food and I’m out in the street.'”

Cruz and her teams are out on the streets trying to find the neediest people. But in the mountains south of her city, help is less likely to come.

* * *

Mayor Javier Garcia, believes help will come from the mainland and the federal government.

The question is when, and whether it will be too late[.]

The main airport in San Juan is crippled, barely functioning. Those there are hoping to escape a crowded terminal with no air conditioning. On Tuesday, only ten flights are scheduled.

Check-in desks are packed with people waiting in line, hoping for a flight off the island. Fans are running, but keeping no one cool. Hopeful travelers sit in chairs on line and others lie nearby, using their suitcases as pillows. A mother rocks a stroller back and forth to try to calm a child.

* * *

Until aid arrives, Garcia and his fellows in Aguas Buenas are reverting to an older way of life — hacking coconuts to eat and collecting water from mountain streams. But that can only sustain so many for so long.
Twenty-first century help is needed for many like Miguel Olivera who rely on medication. And the situation can so easily get worse — mosquito-borne diseases like Zika and Dengue fever are very real fears here.

* * *

Puerto Rico’s power grid was a mess well before the storm and it will be months — several months — before electricity is restored across the island.

Generators are now essential — and essential to them is gasoline. Gas stations around San Juan do have some supply, but the demand is overwhelming.

Long lines of vehicles queue up at the pumps and men with red plastic gas cans wait for up to six hours, hoping to get a few precious gallons. Similar lines grow outside any open grocery store and anywhere that has ice.

* * *

Puerto Rico’s leaders and many of its people say they are resilient, they will survive, they will rebuild.
But signs of desperation are beginning to show.

A reporter climbing out of a helicopter is grabbed in a bear hug by a weeping woman in Quebradillas, a cut-off town. The woman doesn’t know who the reporter is, but she is a person from the outside, perhaps someone with news of supplies, who can take a message to family, who can offer something.

From the air, you can see people walking along highways, reaching up, searching for a cellphone signal. Floods, storm debris and the ever-present lack of power mean a fleeting phone conversation may be their only link to the rest of the island for some time.

The same struggle evident in Quebradillas is playing out across Puerto Rico.

* * *

Every single part of Puerto Rico took a hit. From the air it looks brown, not the verdant green of the tropical island it is.

Nothing is normal and there is little sign of when any sense of normality will return — from schools opening, to hospitals being able to care for the sick. Millions don’t know when they’ll be able to turn on a tap and get water, or flick the switch and have light or cooler air.

Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló of Puerto Rico said on Monday that the island was on the brink of a “humanitarian crisis” nearly a week after Hurricane Maria. In Battered Puerto Rico, Governor Warns of a Humanitarian Crisis:

Stressing that Puerto Rico, a United States commonwealth, deserved the same treatment as hurricane-ravaged states, the governor urged Republican leaders and the federal government to move swiftly to send more money, supplies and relief workers. It was a plea echoed by Puerto Rico’s allies in Congress, who are pushing for quick movement on a new relief bill and a loosening of financial debt obligations for the island, which is still reeling from a corrosive economic crisis.

“Puerto Rico, which is part of the United States, can turn into a humanitarian crisis,” Governor Rosselló said. “To avoid that, recognize that we Puerto Ricans are American citizens; when we speak of a catastrophe, everyone must be treated equally.”

And Mr. Rosselló did not mince words about the potential impact on the mainland, where Puerto Ricans are expected to arrive in droves to escape the post-Maria hardships they will face on the island, including a shortage of already hard-to-find jobs.

“If we want to prevent, for example, a mass exodus, we have to take action. Congress, take note: Take action, permit Puerto Rico to have the necessary resources,” Mr. Rosselló said.

Well, that should get Trump’s attention. The population of Puerto Rico is over 3.6 million. The population of the U.S. Virgin Islands is another 100,000 plus citizens. They are all American citizens who have the right to travel freely to the U.S. mainland as U.S. citizens. They just need a means to leave the islands.

UPDATE: How eff’ed up is this country? This much: Nearly Half of Americans Don’t Know Puerto Ricans Are Fellow Citizens:

A new poll of 2,200 adults by Morning Consult found that only 54 percent of Americans know that people born in Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, are U.S. citizens. (Because Puerto Rico is not a state, they do not vote in presidential elections, but they send one nonvoting representative to Congress.)

This finding varied significantly by age and education. Only 37 percent of people ages 18 to 29 know people born in Puerto Rico are citizens, compared with 64 percent of those 65 or older. Similarly, 47 percent of Americans without a college degree know Puerto Ricans are Americans, compared with 72 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree and 66 percent of those with a postgraduate education.

Inaccurate beliefs on this question matter, because Americans often supportcuts to foreign aid when asked to evaluate spending priorities. In our poll, support for additional aid was strongly associated with knowledge of the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans. More than 8 in 10 Americans who know Puerto Ricans are citizens support aid, compared with only 4 in 10 of those who do not.

Being informed about the citizenship status of Puerto Ricans also modestly increases support for aid. Over all, 64 percent of Americans in the poll who were given no additional information said that Puerto Rico should receive additional government aid to help rebuild the territory, while 14 percent said it was not necessary and 20 percent said they did not know or had no opinion.

But when a random sample of participants was informed that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens before answering this question, support for aid increased four percentage points, to 68 percent. These effects were especially large for Republicans (+9 percentage points), Trump voters (+10 percentage points) and Hispanic respondents (+12 percentage points). For example, 67 percent of Trump voters who saw a prompt informing them that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens supported additional aid, compared with 57 percent who did not see the prompt.

25 Responses to Humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands is becoming Trump’s ‘Katrina’ (updated)

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    Finally, the Jones Act is being waived.

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/28/white-house-puerto-rico-jones-act-waived-243248

    The military still isn’t as engaged as it should be, and should have been, the Governor of PR and Mayor of San Juan are literally begging for help.

    This is not Trump’s Katrina, this is worse.

  2. For Sure Not Tom

    On a hunch I checked to see if Goldman Sachs had anything to do with PR’s financial crisis.

    Anyone want to make a bet on what I found?

    And since Trump cites business reasons for not lifting the Jones Act, anyone want to bet me that Goldman Sachs (half his cabinet) has something to do with it?

    All around the world, when a government is failing, you can assume without hesitation that Goldman Sachs is there.

  3. For Sure Not Tom

    Mark Cuban has loaned his private jet to the PR relief efforts. Rapper Pit Bull has done the same.

    Where’s that big blue Trump plane?

    • Or his helicopter for that matter? You know, the one he pandered for votes with by giving rides at a fair?

  4. Trump administration considering Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico
    BY MELANIE ZANONA – 09/27/17 11:50 AM EDT
    9

    The Trump administration said it is evaluating whether to waive U.S. shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico, where residents are without power after two devastating hurricanes.

    The Trump administration has faced fierce backlash following reports on Tuesday that the agency would not be temporarily lifting the Jones Act rule…

    http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/352669-trump-administration-considering-jones-act-waiver-for-puerto-rico

  5. For Sure Not Tom

    Here’s a good write up about what’s happening in PR.

    Some of the numbers sound impressive, 7 million liters of water, etc., but that’s about a days supply at the most.

    https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/9/26/16365994/hurricane-maria-2017-puerto-rico-san-juan-humanitarian-disaster-electricty-fuel-flights-facts

    Trump signed and EO for a hiring freeze right after he was sworn in, that made his base very happy, but there are hundreds of positions that would be helping PR and the USVI right now that are unfilled.

    This is what happens when you govern by Tea Party level “common sense”, people get hurt, people die.

    There is a reason for government, and some things, like large scale relief efforts, can only be done by government.

  6. For Sure Not Tom

    Puerto Rico has no electoral college votes. So Trump gets nothing by being a good president and person.

    Same for the US VI.

    The Navy and Air Force should have been loading up water, food, and fuel the second it was clear the island would take a direct hit.

    The Army should have been loading up heavy equipment to clear roads and start building shelters.

    And we should have been doing the same for the BVI’s and the rest of the area.

    Trump has gutted the government at a time when real Americans need help. 4 million Americans are suffering while a racist POS takes shots at football players.

    He’s losing the distraction battle, too, after calling for their firing, 250 players took a knee and not one lost his job.

    And for all the fake conservatives here who say you shouldn’t be allowed to protest on company time, let’s remember Jemele Hill tweeted from her personal twitter account about Trump, and the White House called for her firing.

    So you can’t protest on your own time, either, in Trump’s America.

    That’s fascism, folks, look it up.

    The Trump administration will go down in history as the worst, by far. He doesn’t have the number of war dead on his hands that Bush does, but give him time.

    • Good grief! Where to begin…

      “The Navy and Air Force should have been loading up water, food, and fuel the second it was clear the island would take a direct hit. The Army should have been loading up heavy equipment to clear roads and start building shelters.”

      First of all, Tom, you have no idea what level of preparation was going on in the Armed Forces during the entire period of the multiple natural disasters. Secondly, despite all the media pronouncements and wishful thinking like yours, the Armed Forces are NOT a natural disaster relief force. They are not trained, designed for, nor budgeted to do the job. Yes, they do an excellent job when called upon and funded to do the job, but that is simply a testimony to the quality and efficiency of the various Services. Thirdly, where is your questioning of the federal agencies actually tasked and funded for emergency actions in the event of natural disasters?

      “Trump has gutted the government at a time when real Americans need help.”

      How did he “gut” the government? What actions have allowed him to do this? You see, Tom, when you ask me why I “go after” you it is the wrong question. I don’t go after you, I simply respond to some of the things you post that are completely outlandish. You exist in an echo chamber of approval from similar minded people, but that approval doesn’t mean you are either correct or even making sense. So I challenge you. It is that simple…

      “He’s losing the distraction battle, too, after calling for their firing, 250 players took a knee and not one lost his job.”

      Do you really think Trump expected anyone to get fired? Don’t be silly. Trump was giving voice to millions of Americans who are tired of pampered, overpaid athletes using sports to push a political point of view. People want to watch sports, not a bunch of idiots demonstrating their opposition to whatever they are opposed to today. The backlash on the sports venue for these personal statements on the sports viewers time is building. They are being booed from the audience and losing their fn base as they go along with this latest burst of stupidity.

      “That’s fascism, folks, look it up.”

      I did and it isn’t. Merriam-Webster states “Fascism: 1 often capitalized :a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

      NONE of the characteristics of fascism applies to what you are describing. You just like calling the opposition “fascists”. That’s all!

      “The Trump administration will go down in history as the worst, by far.”

      I doubt that. Your wishful thinking, notwithstanding, Trump has several years to establish his legacy, and it is highly doubtful that even with the raw hatred the left has for him that his history is going to be a bad one. Presidential histories just aren’t written that way…

  7. “Democracy Now” reports on Puerto Rico with Juan Gonzalez and Nelson Denis, who wrote about the Jones Act in The New York Times this week in a piece headlined “The Law Strangling Puerto Rico.”

    Profits vs. Puerto Rican Lives: Trump Admin Blocks Aid from Reaching Devastated Island
    STORY SEPTEMBER 27, 2017

    Video at link (34 minutes):
    https://www.democracynow.org/2017/9/27/profits_vs_puerto_rican_lives_trump

  8. About the Jones Act…

    The Law Strangling Puerto Rico
    By NELSON A. DENIS SEPT. 25, 2017

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/25/opinion/hurricane-puerto-rico-jones-act.html?mcubz=0

    • From the article…

      “Under the law, any foreign registry vessel that enters Puerto Rico must pay punitive tariffs, fees and taxes, which are passed on to the Puerto Rican consumer.

      The foreign vessel has one other option: It can reroute to Jacksonville, Fla., where all the goods will be transferred to an American vessel, then shipped to Puerto Rico where — again — all the rerouting costs are passed through to the consumer.

      Thanks to the law, the price of goods from the United States mainland is at least double that in neighboring islands, including the United States Virgin Islands, which are not covered by the Jones Act.”

    • A law designed to protect American ship-building is limiting aid delivery to Puerto Rico
      September 26, 2017

      “Under a long-standing US law, the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, all the transportation of goods between US ports has to be done by US vessels exclusively.

      Under the Act, for a ship to be allowed cabotage, or transportation of goods and people between two harbors in the same country, it has to satisfy all three of these conditions: be US built, US owned, and US-flag-carrying (which means the ship is registered as American). The law’s original intent was to fortify the US ship building industry after World War I. Nearly 100 years later, that goal is no longer realistic. Only five large shipyards survive in the country, and the number of American-built vessels has shrunk dramatically: between 2006 and 2011, the US-built, owned, and operated fleet shrank 17%… That means there’s only so many boats that meet all three conditions available to deliver goods in Puerto Rico.”

      https://qz.com/1087325/what-is-the-jones-act-and-how-is-it-affecting-puerto-ricos-hurricane-recovery/

  9. US won’t waive shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico relief
    BY JOHN BOWDEN – 09/26/17 07:49 PM EDT

    The Trump administration on Tuesday denied a request from several members of Congress to waive shipping restrictions to help get gasoline and other supplies to Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria.

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declined the request to waive the Jones Act, which limits shipping between coasts to U.S.-flagged vessels, according to Reuters. DHS waived the act following hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit the mainland U.S.

    The agency has in the past waived the rule to allow cheaper and more readily-available foreign vessels to supply goods to devastated areas. But DHS said Tuesday that waiving the act for Puerto Rico would not help the U.S. island territory due to damaged ports preventing ships from docking.

    http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/352597-us-wont-waive-shipping-restrictions-for-puerto-rico-relief

    • (continued)

      In a letter to the department on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urged DHS to rethink the decision…

      “The Department of Homeland Security has been given the ability to waive the Jones Act to accommodate national security concerns, and has done so twice in the last month,” McCain wrote. “These emergency waivers have been valuable to speed up recovery efforts in the impacted regions. However, I am very concerned by the Department’s decision not to waive the Jones Act for current relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria.”

      McCain called the department’s decision “unacceptable” and warned that Puerto Rico faces a humanitarian crisis as the island’s 3.4 million people struggle to survive without power or clean water.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Confirmed.

      Trump will not be waiving the Jones act, citing “business interests”.

      http://www.newsweek.com/puerto-rico-hurricane-maria-donald-trump-jones-act-relief-aid-672778

      The guy is a POS. 4 million Americans have been waiting for a week for help. Medical supplies that need refrigeration are spoiling, hospitals are without power. Americans are suffering while he toilet tweets about football players.

  10. The longer this goes on, this so-called Trump presidency, the worse things will get for most of us in some way or another. There is no leadership.

    In the past few days Trump’s incompetence has become more glaring by the hour. “Unfit to lead” does not begin to describe him.

    But how does it end?

    • “The longer this goes on, this so-called Trump presidency, the worse things will get for most of us in some way or another.

      If all you will allow yourself to see is doom and gloom, then, yes, things will likely get worse. It is a sad way to go through life, though, Liza, but everyone is certainly free to choose their attitude and live in the darkness if they choose. Good luck with that!

      “There is no leadership.”

      The United States was hit, in rapid fire succession. with several of the most devastating and destructive acts of nature unleashing it’s worst. Trump’s leadership has been spot on through it. The media and people who think as you do, were disappointed because he handled the first two disasters so well that you couldn’t attack him for his responses as you wanted to so desperately. After all the destruction, and expenses related to the destruction, the response to Puerto Rico has been a little slower. I would suggest that is NOT a reflection on Trump, but, rather, an objective assessment as to just how much we can handle so many crises at once.

      “In the past few days Trump’s incompetence has become more glaring by the hour. “Unfit to lead” does not begin to describe him.”

      Really?? Is it truly a measure of Trump’s inability to handle the crisis, or is it your dark need to see him fail? Given that Trump and his people have been doing really good at battling the worst series of natural disasters we have known, I would suggest the fault lies with you and your circle of associates and NOT with Trump and his administration.

      “But how does it end?”

      With us rebuilding and getting back to normal. It does NOT end in the dark horrors you are hoping for.

  11. For Sure Not Tom

    The Tweet about PR owning money was par for Trump.

    He’s an asshole.

    • “He’s contrary just to be contrary.”

      No. I am persistent in correcting you when you blurt out idiotic and outrageous things as if they are facts.

      “I enjoy a good debate, but he’s a black hole.”

      No, you don’t enjoy a good debate…you enjoy sycophants that tell you smart and correct you are. And you enjoy name calling and vulgarity. But not debate.

      “And the stalking of a few of us is weird.”

      IfI were stalking you, that would be weird. Why I post so often to you and Liza is you two are the most prolific posters on this blog right now. Take this thread: 23 total posts: 12 from Liza; 8 from you; and 3 from everyone else. As long as you and Liza post so often, then I will respond more often to you than others. It is simple mathematics and not because you and Liza are special in some way.

      “TL;DR”

      Yeah. Sure you didn’t. ;o)