US & Canada

Does Trump care about Puerto Rico's hurricane victims?

Soldiers of Puerto Rico"s national guard distribute relief items to people, after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico September 24, 2017 Image copyright Reuters

The warning from Puerto Rico's governor in the wake of Hurricane Maria was stark: act now, or risk a humanitarian disaster.

Those outside the capital were still struggling without power, while locals reported clean water and medicines were also scarce.

But many in the US - of which Puerto Rico is a territory - are questioning whether their president cares about the 3.5 million American citizens whose lives have been turned upside down.

A quick glance at Donald Trump's Twitter feed over the weekend - arguably the president's preferred method of communication - gave no hint of the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Instead, his attention was firmly focused on whether or not American footballers knelt or stood during the national anthem.

It didn't go unnoticed.

The president finally acknowledged the disaster on Monday evening - although his response appeared to link Puerto Rico's hurricane woes with its debt crisis.

"Really not sure how to read this other than Trump taking this opportunity to blame Puerto Rico for its misfortune..." tweeted McKay Coppins, a writer for The Atlantic.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Star's Washington correspondent Daniel Dale compared the tweets to "a paramedic gazing at a screaming man trapped in a wrecked car and saying: 'You're quite overweight.'"

Many others were also left with a bitter taste in their mouth.

But is there any merit to the claim Mr Trump cares less about what is happening in Puerto Rico than he did when hurricanes struck Texas and Florida?

The White House denies it has abandoned Puerto Rico.

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Monday: "We've done unprecedented movement in terms of federal funding to provide for the people of Puerto Rico and others that have been impacted [by] these storms.

"We'll continue to do so and continue to do everything that we possibly can under the federal government to provide assistance."

Her words have been backed up by politicians on the island, and Jenniffer Gonzalez, who, as resident commissioner, is Puerto Rico's non-voting representative in Washington.

She praised the administration's response, telling the Associated Press news agency: "This is the first time we get this type of federal co-ordination."

But still, it is Mr Trump's personal reaction which seems to have angered social media users in the States, including singer Marc Anthony, who was born in the US but whose parents are Puerto Rican.

His ex-wife, the singer Jennifer Lopez, also of Puerto Rican descent, has donated $1m to the relief efforts already, according to the Guardian.

Image copyright Twitter/@MarcAnthony

And when compared to Mr Trump's response to the two hurricanes which preceded Maria, there does appear to be an imbalance.

Mr Trump sent at least one tweet out a day about Texas for a week after Hurricane Harvey barrelled into its coastline on 26 August, causing great damage and leaving at least 47 people dead.

By 2 September, he had asked Congress for $7.8bn (£6bn) as an initial amount to help rebuild the area.

Mr Trump also visited Texas twice within a week.

In the days after Hurricane Irma hit Florida on 10 September, Mr Trump sent a flurry of tweets - although not as many as with Texas - and visited the area within five days.

Mr Trump is due to arrive in Puerto Rico on 3 October, almost a fortnight after the hurricane hit. It is, he told reporters on Tuesday, the first day he can go without disrupting the recovery effort.

In the meantime - after Mr Trump returned to criticising the NFL on social media - people on Twitter are keen for him to know exactly where they stand on the issue.

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