Trump: Puerto Rico 'can be very proud' that it had 16 deaths compared to 'a real catastrophe like Katrina'

While visiting San Juan on Tuesday, President Donald Trump told Puerto Rican officials that they “can be very proud” that Hurricane Maria resulted in 16 confirmed deaths, as opposed to “a real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina.

Trump made his remarks during a briefing on recovery efforts as the island struggles to regain electricity and power, and to distribute food and water to residents who lost their homes after the storm.

“Every death is a horror,” Trump said. “But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with, really, a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody’s ever seen anything like this.”

He turned to Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who was seated next to him at the news conference. “And what is your death count as of this moment?” Trump asked. “Seventeen?”

Rossello responded, “Sixteen, certified.”

“Sixteen people certified,” Trump said. “Sixteen people versus in the thousands. You can be very proud.”

He added: “All of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud.” 

The president’s visit to the island comes after he sparked controversy last week when he accused San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, of “poor leadership” after she begged for federal aid. 

“I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying,” Cruz said on Friday. “If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.”

“This is what we got last night: four pallets of water, three pallets of meals and 12 pallets of infant food — which I gave them to the people of Comerio, where people are drinking off a creek,” Cruz said. “So I am done being polite. I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell. So I am asking the members of the press, to send a mayday call all over the world. We are dying here.”

Trump fired back the next day. 

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” Trump said on Twitter. “…Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help.”

Hurricane Maria left many of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million US citizens without shelter, water, power, and other basic necessities. 

“They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job,” Trump said on Saturday. “The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed.”

Despite assurances that the US is mobilizing a robust recovery effort, Trump has earned sharp criticism from the American public and from organisations like Oxfam, which said Tuesday that it was “outraged at the slow and inadequate response the US government has mounted in Puerto Rico.” 

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