Donald Trump defends Puerto Rico effort, but his tweets draw new criticism

Trump`s criticism of Cruz and of Puerto Ricans` efforts drew sharp retorts from mainland politicians, even from within his own Republican Party.

AFP| Updated: Oct 01, 2017, 23:05 PM IST
Donald Trump defends Puerto Rico effort, but his tweets draw new criticism

Columbia: President Donald Trump on Sunday strenuously defended US efforts to bring relief to storm-battered Puerto Rico, even as one island official said Trump was trying to gloss over "things that are not going well."

A day after Trump launched a Twitter attack against San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz following her desperate pleas for more help, he tweeted that "we have done a great job with the almost impossible situation in Puerto Rico." 

Trump said US military teams and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were doing "amazing work"; he credited the island`s governor and others with a "fantastic job," and said those who disagreed were "Fake News or politically motivated ingrates."

But Cruz, while shrugging off the criticism, told CNN that millions were still suffering without power, food or water and that Trump seemed to be "looking for an excuse for things that are not going well."

Trump`s criticism of Cruz and of Puerto Ricans` efforts drew sharp retorts from mainland politicians, even from within his own Republican Party.

"When people are in the middle of a disaster, you don`t start trying to criticize them," Ohio Governor John Kasich, a presidential hopeful in 2016, said on CNN. "You got to be bigger than the nonsense."

And Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democrat, told CNN: "Speaking of his fancy golf club, playing golf with his billionaire friends, attacking the mayor of San Juan, who is struggling to bring electricity to the island, food to the island, water to the island, gas to the island, that is just -- it is unspeakable.

"And I don`t know what world Trump is living in."

Trump was spending Sunday at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, before traveling to another golf course in nearby Jersey City to present the trophy to the winner of the Presidents Cup tournament.The Trump administration sent several top officials onto Sunday talk shows with the message that the relief effort is going well, despite complaints that the federal effort in Puerto Rico has fallen short of the work done after hurricanes struck Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.

"The administration`s done an extraordinary job of delivering goods and services to people" in Puerto Rico, said White House economics adviser Gary Cohn, appearing on Fox News Sunday. "We`re working full-speed ahead."

FEMA administrator Brock Long offered a slightly more cautious assessment, telling ABC`s "This Week" that "we`ve got a long way to go."

"We`re finding success in some areas, and in some areas we see setbacks" he said, "but we are making progress, in my opinion."

FEMA has been under heavy duress since successive hurricanes pounded the US Gulf Coast and devastated parts of the Caribbean starting six weeks ago.

Long said the storms that struck Puerto Rico -- Irma and Maria -- greatly magnified the challenge for relief workers by damaging or wiping out some 3,200 roads or bridges.

Still, he said, "We (have) pushed everything into that island that we can."

Asked about Trump`s suggestion Saturday that Puerto Ricans wanted "everything to be done for them," Long said, "I believe the Puerto Ricans are pulling their weight."

But he suggested that Mayor Cruz might not be aware of all that FEMA is doing because she had visited the agency`s joint field office in San Juan only once.

Asked about that on ABC, Cruz said that after that visit "we have been communicating ever since."

Trump is scheduled to visit the island on Tuesday. Would Cruz be willing to meet with him

"If he asks to meet with me," she said, "of course I will meet with him."