Trump threatens to abandon aid to Puerto Rico as millions remain without power, water


Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, almost all of the 3.4 million U.S. citizens who live on the island remain without electricity. Thousands don't have water to drink and are either getting donated bottled water from the government or collecting spring water they've redirected using makeshift spigots – the desperation is so intense that some people have even been getting their water at toxic hazardous waste sites. The latest death toll stands at 45, though that number will likely increase dramatically as the people who are already dead are counted. Puerto Rican officials also have to worry about a potential outbreak of leptospirosis, a disease spread by animal urine, that is the probable cause of death of four people.

And with all that in mind, President Donald Trump decided it would be a good idea this morning to threaten to abandon federal aid to Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.

For three weeks, Puerto Ricans have struggled to survive under the looming Twitter presence of la naranja demoníaca. Trump has implied they're lazy, attacked the mayor of San Juan for pleading for help, tossed paper towels at hurricane victims, complained that the island's disaster has "thrown our budget a little out of whack," and bragged about his administration's response to the crisis as hundreds of frustrated, heartbroken Puerto Ricans leave the island to come to Florida and other states because they've lost everything. And if you thought that was the pinnacle of shit – nope. Trump's grotesque promise of limited help to the already financially impoverished island will likely put human lives at risk. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has estimated $95 billion in damage – but the colony is only getting a $4.9 billion loan for it and the U.S. Virgin Islands in a disaster relief package that Congress has yet to vote on.

Trump isn't being charitable when he helps Puerto Rico – the federal government is obligated to help its U.S. territory just like it helped Florida and Texas after recent hurricanes. One of the only things separating Puerto Ricans from other U.S. citizens is the fact that they can't vote for president or have a vote in Congress – other than that, Puerto Ricans pay payroll taxes, business taxes, and estate taxes, which fund, among other things, FEMA. They've served in the U.S. military since World War I. They pay food and other consumer goods because of the Jones Act, an antiquated law that requires all goods ferried between U.S. ports to be carried on American ships. That policy and others have contributed to the island's economic downturn and eventual bankruptcy, with Puerto Rico owing more than $70 billion in debt. In the most perverse aspect of this relationship between colony and colonizer, American scientists have used Puerto Rican women like guinea pigs to test pharmaceutical products like birth control.

Since the president's tweets this morning, Gov. Rosselló, who has been pretty cordial through Trump's antics, responded on Twitter.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who's been called "nasty" by Trump, was a bit more forceful.
In a longer letter to NBC News, Cruz said Trump was "incapable of empathy and frankly, simply cannot get the job done."

"I ask every American that has love, and not hate in their hearts, to stand with Puerto Rico and let this President know we WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE," she writes. "I ask the United Nations, UNICEF and the world to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and stop the genocide that will result from the lack of appropriate action of a president that just does not get it because he has been incapable of looking into our eyes and seeing the pride that burns fiercely in our hearts and souls."

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