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Alex Cora answers questions from reporters before the start of a game. (AP / Jeff Haynes)
Alex Cora answers questions from reporters before the start of a game. (AP / Jeff Haynes)

Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced today that he won’t be with the team this Thursday, May 9, when the World Series champions are scheduled to be hosted in the White House by President Donald Trump.

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The 43-year old former player and winner of three World Series rings said, through a written statement sent exclusively to El Nuevo Día, that he reached his decision “after a long process of reflection, consideration and understanding from my loved ones”.

Cora explained that he chose not to visit the White House with the Red Sox because he feels that Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover from the destruction Hurricane María caused when it ripped through the island on September 20, 2017.

“Puerto Rico is very important to me. During the winter I spent a lot of time back home, visiting my family and friends. Unfortunately, we are still struggling, still fighting. Some people still lack basic necessities, others remain without electricity and many homes and schools are in pretty bad shape almost a year and a half after Hurricane María struck”, said Cora.

Even though the United States Government has helped, there’s still a long road ahead and that is OUR reality. I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten and my absence (from the White House) is no different. As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House”, added Cora, who calls the municipality of Caguas his home.

Cora won’t be the only member of the Red Sox to decline the customary invitation for champion sports teams to visit the White House. Starting pitchers David Price and Héctor Velázquez, outfielders Mookie Betts (2018 American League MVP) and Jackie Bradley, Jr., third baseman Rafael Devers and fellow Puerto Rican catcher Christian Vázquez had already announced they wouldn’t be with the team for their meeting with Trump.

According to a report published by The Associated Press last week, Red Sox management informed all employees that the trip to the White House was optional.

I want to emphasize that this is a personal decision and that it does not reflect, in any way, the sentiment of our organization. All individuals have beliefs that need to be respected. I want to thank the Red Sox for respecting my stance. I’m proud of this team and I feel fortunate to be a part of this great franchise”, wrote Cora.

Cora debuted as a Mayor League manager last season and led the Red Sox to a World Series championship over the Los Angeles Dodgers after posting a franchise-best 108-54 record during the regular season.

The Red Sox will visit the White House on their day off after a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.

A consistent stance

Cora has been critical of Trump in the past and, last year, branded comments made by the President in which he questioned the number of deaths in Puerto Rico caused by the Category 4 hurricane as “disrespectful”.

In a series of tweets published by Trump on September 13, 2018, almost a year after Hurricane María hit the U.S. territory, he questioned and criticized the findings of a study carried out by the George Washington University which revealed the violent cyclone caused, directly and indirectly, 2,975 deaths. Before the study was published, the Government of Puerto Rico attributed 64 deaths to Hurricane María.

Eventually, Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares accepted the findings of the study and had the official death toll adjusted.

“3,000 people did not die because of the two hurricanes that struck Puerto Rico”, tweeted Trump at that moment and while referencing Hurricane Irma, whichglanced the northeastern part of Puerto Rico on September 6, 2017.

“When I left Puerto Rico, after the hurricane (had passed), they reported between six and 18 deaths. But, as time went on, that number did not go up much”, added Trump, who then said the new death toll were “done by the Democrats to make me look as bad as possible”.

Trump’s tweets fueled a reaction by Cora right in the middle of the Red Sox’s historical 2018 season.

“Writing tweets about 3,000 people and being efficient, that’s showing a lack of respect towards my country”, Cora said to reporters on September of 2018. “I respect him (Trump). He is the President of the United States. But I don’t agree with many of the things he’s said about us (Puerto Ricans)”.

Another study conducted by Harvard University placed the death toll at 4,645, but it was later adjusted to 3,000 after the Government of Puerto Rico granted researchers access to official death records.

Trump and his threats to halt aid

Cora’s decision not to visit the White House also comes at a time when Trump has threatened to halt federal aid destined to assist reconstruction efforts in Puerto Rico. Since last November, Trump has held White House staff meetings and talked with legislators about the possibility of halting the flow of funds. The Government of Puerto Rico estimates the damage caused by the hurricane to be around $100 billion.

On April 2, 2019, Trump tweeted, erroneously, that Puerto Rico had received $91 billion in federal aid, the “biggest economic aid the federal government has awarded after a hurricane, and all their politicians do is complain and ask for more money”.

Shortly after Trump posted the tweet, the White House said that number was not real. The White House estimated $41 billion have been assigned to Puerto Rico, while the remaining $50 billion is the projected aid the U.S. territory could receive in the future.

El Nuevo Día found that the federal government has sent $45,700 billion in aid to Puerto Rico.