President Donald Trump said Thursday the federal government cannot keep the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Puerto Rico “forever,” even as the U.S. territory continues to reel from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in September.
“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military, the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” Trump tweeted.
His comments — in which he also blamed the beleaguered island for a financial crisis “largely of their own making” and infrastructure that was a “disaster” before the hurricane — come as Puerto Rico still reels from a lack of electricity, public health access and a rising death toll. The remarks quickly prompted cries from Democratic lawmakers, who argue that Puerto Rico still needs a lot of help, as well as the mayor of San Juan, who said they were “unbecoming” and appeared to come from a “hater in chief.”
Meanwhile, Texas and Florida — two states Trump won during last year’s presidential election — also were struck by severe hurricanes recently, but the President has made no public indication that the federal government is pulling back on its response there.
This comes just after the stay on the Jones act has expired, which means foreign ships won’t be able to deliver food, water, or medical supplies to Puerto Rico. Officials estimate only 70% is the island has access to clean water and only about 12% of residents have electricity.