Washington - President Trump touched yesterday the most intimate and painful fiber of the calamities that Puerto Ricans have experienced in the last year by alleging, without basis, that the official estimate of deaths -2,975-, related to Hurricane Maria is a Democrats invention.
3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
.....This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 13, 2018
This time, Trump earned the scorn of Republicans and Democrats, and Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares -who has avoided criticizing Trump-, asked him, even though US television channels, "to recognize the magnitude of Hurricane Maria."
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…” said Trump on Twitter.
For Trump, the death toll was "… done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”
Trump made this scandalous tweets in the morning, 16 hours after some of his advisors had a meeting in the White House with representatives of the government of Puerto Rico -including Secretary of State, Luis Rivera Marin-, to, among other things, coordinate the message they want to send across facing the first anniversary of the worst catastrophe in Puerto Rico in almost a century.
The meeting included representatives from the White House Communications area. Although they dealt with the general issue of the island’s recovery, the meeting had as a focus to order the official message regarding Maria, according to sources.
Rivera Marin had interviews with US networks from the White House on Wednesday in which he refused to criticize Trump for continually praising himself without showing solidarity for the hurricane victims.
But, Trump's expressions also came a day after The Washington Post reported the results of a survey on 1,500 residents of Puerto Rico that showed that only 15 percent of those who experienced the emergency caused by Hurricane Maria gave him good grades for his performance.
While 31 percent gave good grades to Governor Rosselló.
Democrats and Republicans were astonished that Trump used the victims of the hurricane to try to defend himself, an issue that, especially in Florida, can impact on the legislative elections. "He dances over the dead to disguise his incompetence," said Puerto Rican Democratic congressman Darren Soto (Florida).
Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University -which reached the estimated 2,975 deaths accepted by the government of Puerto Rico-, issued a statement noting that they worked "with complete independence and freedom."
House Speaker Paul Ryan said that there was no reason to dispute the fact that the deaths occurred as a consequence of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico reached 2,975, but added that this happens “when a horrible hurricane hits a place as isolated as an island.”
“What kind of mind distorts statistics? ‘Oh, fake news are trying to ruin my image’. How can someone be so egocentric and try to distort the truth so much? It’s mind blowing.” said Republican congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen (Florida), who is retiring from Congress this December.
Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez -who avoids blaming Trump-, joined the criticisms in the afternoon. Gonzalez said Trump's comments were "unfortunate," but she called to focus on the recovery process.
Rosselló exhorted President Trump to continue working to "guarantee the total recovery of the US citizens of Puerto Rico." Without making exceptions between Republicans and Democrats, Rosselló said that "we cannot allow the devastation of our citizens to be questioned or the response efforts to be politicized."
In a message on the US House’s floor, Puerto Rican Democratic Congressman Luis Gutiérrez denounced Trump's lack of empathy and solidarity with Puerto Rico.
Since the GWU study was published, Trump has spoken, on at least four occasions, about the consequences of Hurricane Maria, only to praise himself and claim that his work was "an incredible success that has not been recognized."
In his speech, Gutierrez warned that the Republican majority in Congress "has failed to offer meaningful oversight fearing they may embarrass the President."
In that sense, the Democrats of the House Committee on Natural Resources pointed out that the hearings convened by the chairman of the committee, Republican Rob Bishop (Utah), have been devoted to see if "the Financial Oversight and Management Board treats bondholders fairly."
Enrique Fernandez Toledo, director of Center for American Progress’ (CAP) Puerto Rico Relief and Economic Policy Initiative, Trump has shown that he is not ashamed of what happened in Puerto Rico, which he considers has been a sign of racism.
On behalf of more than 30 diaspora groups, the National Puerto Rican Agenda said that "those insensitive, false and politically motivated (Trump) expressions are an insult to all of us."
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