President Donald Trump’s delayed response to the devastation in Puerto Rico is reminiscent of former president George W. Bush’s lack of response to Hurricane Katrina, if not worse. All eyes have been on the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Puerto Rico—all eyes except for Trump’s.
Before making landfall on Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria was a high-end category four hurricane with winds up to 155 mph. The government gave evacuation orders across the island, with a total of 500 shelters prepared for the storm. The devastation goes beyond what words can explain—trees were stripped of bark and leaves, flooding occurred across the island and both power and phone services were cut off. Approximately 3.4 million people are without power, and those with power are almost entirely reliant on generators.
Maria caused up to $85 billion in insured damages, according to catastrophe-modeling firm AIR Worldwide. The most recent death toll confirms 16 dead in Puerto Rico as of Sunday Oct. 1, however, this number is likely to rise.
Although Puerto Rico is not completely alone, the territory is still in dire need of assistance. Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico following the catastrophe. Being a United States territory, Puerto Rico was assured federal aid that would pay up to 75 percent in losses. This is far below what the region actually needs; Puerto Rico itself is $73 billion in debt and funding is required now more than ever.
Puerto Rico is not a far off Pacific micro-nation. It is a U.S. territory with citizens who are just as American as the elites in Washington. To treat Puerto Ricans, who are by law U.S. citizens, differently than the victims of Hurricane Harvey or Jose is completely unacceptable.
Both the state and federal government made a series of critical mistakes when confronted with Katrina. Trump’s actions are no different than Bush’s in the failures he made, which makes the mistakes even more inadmissible.
Thirteen days after Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Trump announced a planned visit to the island country—the same duration of time Bush took to visit New Orleans after Katrina. Bearing eerily similar courses of action, it doesn’t seem to end there for the inadequacy shown by today’s White House.
Mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz has rightfully criticized Trump’s response to Maria, and instead of receiving the help she rightfully requested, she was targeted by Trump. He responded with tweets criticizing the current available administration in Puerto Rico.
“Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help,” Trump tweeted on Sept. 30.
Trump’s reaction to the catastrophe and its victims is not surprising. This dangerous pattern of unsatisfactory responses in the face of disaster highlights Trump’s inability to serve our nation. Protecting U.S. citizens was one of Trump’s campaign promises, and the devastation left by Maria only further reveals the president’s inability to lead.u