Truth In Satire
President angrily tells victims “You want help, get it from your own country,” only to learn Caribbean island is an American territory
But when Gov. Ricardo Rossello sent word to President Trump that a humanitarian crisis was unfolding, and that Puerto Rico was in critical need of the same aid and supplies as storm damaged states like Texas and Florida, he was shocked at the response:
“The president told me that I should get in touch with the leader of my own country if I wanted help,” said Gov. Rossello. “I don’t think he understood that we are part of the United States, and that Puerto Ricans are American citizens.”
The Caribbean island is, in fact, a U.S. territory and its inhabitants are natural-born American citizens. And while they don’t vote for president or have a seat in Congress, Puerto Ricans are able to travel freely between their island and mainland United States.
While the White House denied that Mr. Trump was ignorant of the island’s status or the federal government’s obligation to provide assistance, one Oval Office insider, speaking off the record, said that the president was angry that the U.S. had to come to the aid of another hurricane ravaged area, especially one “that doesn’t speak white English.”
“He kept asking John Kelly how it was possible that ‘a whole island of spics’ could be Americans? Kelly told him that Puerto Rico has been part of the U.S. since 1898 and the fact that the people there spoke primarily Spanish had nothing to do with it.”
John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, is Mr. Trump’s current White House Chief of Staff.
According to the source, Mr. Trump was also agitated to learn that many Puerto Ricans were likely to escape the carnage by fleeing to the U.S. mainland. “He insisted that there must be some way to stop them with a travel ban or something, and that it was going to be hard to keep the Mexicans out if they see Puerto Ricans coming right in without leaping fences or anything.”
The White House announced on Monday that President Trump would be visiting Puerto Rico in the weeks ahead to assess the damage and discuss FEMA’s role in the island’s recovery, but wanted to wait until “real Americans” got all the help they needed first.
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SAN JUAN, P.R. — As life in Puerto Rico grinds on nearly a week after Hurricane Maria knocked out all the power, most of the water and left people waiting in excruciating lines for fuel, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló said the island was on the brink of a “humanitarian crisis” and it was up to Congress to prevent a deepening disaster.
Stressing that Puerto Rico, a United States territory, deserved the same treatment as other hurricane-hit 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.
Residents now face obstacles in navigating almost every step toward a normal life, with little hope of dramatic progress anytime soon.
At Petroamerica Pagán de Colón, an independent living apartment building in San Juan for people over 62, residents have made do with limited water and 14 floors of stairs to climb for crucial goods. Those who are disabled or too sick to climb depend on neighbors to get them food and water. Some have not been able to take baths.
“People were abandoned for seven days,” said Alejandro Melendez, a resident. “There were sick people on the floor, thrown there.”
In the coastal city of Arecibo, where water remains in short supply, residents gather around spouts to collect rain as they peer anxiously down streets for water deliveries. “They are not giving us anything, not even hope,” said Cannabis Angel Nebot, 43. “At least, come around and give us hope, even if it’s a lie.”
Mr. Nebot and his girlfriend, Ixia Milly Rivera, spent the weekend driving around their neighborhood trying to find water to clean off the residue of seven feet of mud Hurricane Maria left in its wake. They could not find any at City Hall. They did not fare any better at the emergency operations center, which is reserving its water for people in shelters or with special needs.
“I have one water truck; I need 10,” said David Latorre, Arecibo’s emergency management director. “It was an odyssey to find food. We had to break down doors to get it. The food system collapsed.”
But Mr. Latorre was still optimistic. “I know FEMA will come,” he said.
Republicans in Washington pushed back forcefully on Monday at any suggestion that the relief effort for Puerto Rico was less aggressive than it had been for Florida and Texas.
“The federal response has been anything but slow,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “In fact, there has been an unprecedented push through of billions of dollars in federal assistance.”
In a visit to the island on Monday, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida made assurances that Congress understood the gravity of the situation. “Our commitment is to make sure that Puerto Rico will recover stronger than ever,” he said.