- Thomson Reuters
President Donald Trump went on a foreboding tweetstorm on Thursday morning warning of a financial crisis in Puerto Rico’s future as the island recovers from the ravages of three straight hurricanes.
“Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making,” tweeted Trump, apparently quoting television newscaster Sharyl Attkisson.
“Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes,” Trump said in a subsequent tweet, also citing a lack of accountability on the island.
The president then warned that Puerto Rico’s fate laid in the hands of Congress, which is expected to pass a spending bill for hurricane and other disaster recovery on Thursday. He added that the military and FEMA could not stay on the island forever.
In May, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello moved to file for bankruptcy after the island defaulted on $70 billion of bonds.
Puerto Rico is a US territory with no voting rights. Though its citizens can move freely throughout the country and serve in the US military, they cannot vote and have little ability to sway policies that affect them. Puerto Rico struggles with a weak tax base and a brain drain where highly qualified citizens generally move to the US mainland.
Additionally, policies that favor US jobs over Puerto Rican jobs like the Jones Act, have hamstrung the island’s economy.
But the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, may face real difficulties in differentiating damage done by the storms to preexisting damage, complicating the recovery finances as they did in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
FEMA stayed active in New Orleans for years following Katrina’s landfall in August 2005. No clear estimates have yet been made on how long Puerto Rico’s recovery will take.
Trump has been roundly criticized for his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, which devastated much of Puerto Rico. In contrast, the media widely assessed Trump’s handling of Hurricane Harvey and Irma, which hit Texas and Florida, respectively, as satisfactory.
As San Juan’s mayor took to television to plead with the world to expedite an what she called an inefficient response, Trump criticized her leadership abilities on Twitter.
Replying to Trump’s tweet, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked the following question: “Why do you continue to treat Puerto Ricans differently than other Americans when it comes to natural disasters?”