Trump 'put the debt before the dead' in Puerto Rico and 'is doing it again' with coronavirus, mayor warns

San Juan mayor slams president's 'botched efforts' on coronavirus pandemic

Chris Riotta
New York
Wednesday 25 March 2020 16:34 GMT
Trump claims that he knew coronavirus was a pandemic just weeks after claiming it was a hoax

Donald Trump’s response to devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico “cost the lives of approximately 3,000” Americans, San Juan's mayor said, while warning the president's "botched efforts" in the coronavirus pandemic would have a similar result.

“The president’s botched efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Maria cost the lives of approximately 3,000 Puerto Ricans,” Carmen Yulín Cruz wrote in a tweet on Tuesday.

“He then put the debt before the dead,” she added. “He is doing it again with his botched efforts in handling the COVID crisis [and] again it will cost thousands of lives.”

The San Juan mayor became a prominent critic of the president during Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria, lashing out at the White House in desperate pleas for aid as most of the island was left without power and critical resources for months. Nearly 3,000 deaths have been associated with the hurricane.

She told CNN at the time that Mr Trump’s administration “killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect” and said: “The Trump administration led us to believe they were helping when they weren’t up to par, and they didn’t allow other countries to help us.”

“Shame on President Trump,” she added. “Shame on President Trump for not even once, not even yesterday, just saying, ‘Look, I grieve with the people of Puerto Rico.’”

Critics of the president said he failed to show strong support for Puerto Rico after the historic hurricanes, instead visiting the island two weeks after the disaster and throwing paper towels into a large crowd of people seeking immediate relief and resources. He meanwhile heralded his administration’s response to the hurricanes and attacked the island as “one of the most corrupt places on earth” in a series of controversial tweets.

Mr Trump has also celebrated his administration’s to the coronavirus outbreak, previously saying his White House had “total control” of the novel virus as health officials warned it was spreading throughout the country rapidly.

The president declared a national emergency over the deadly virus in mid-March, despite the US confirming its first official coronavirus case back on 20 January. The administration also faced significant issues in rolling out nationwide testing, as reports indicated bureaucratic red tape and other obstacles impeded on hospitals’ efforts to test patients for Covid-19.

Health experts have said those initial weeks could have been a critical window for the US to save countless lives through expansive testing in the early phase of the outbreak, a move that would have helped lower the spread of transmissions and in turn prevent hospitals from reaching over capacity. Hospital staff have now warned they are facing a severe shortage of medical supplies like ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, as doctors desperately urge Americans to stay at home and help flatten the curve.

Mr Trump has also called on Americans to stay at home for at least 15 days as part of an effort to combat the spread of the virus. However, as his leading health experts have said those orders should likely remain in place for longer than 15 days, the president has insisted on reopening the country in an effort to save the economy from what analysts say could be a historic downturn.

In recent days, Mr Trump has suggested he will decide whether to encourage Americans to resume their normal lives after the 15-day period, claiming in a Fox News virtual town hall on Tuesday that more people would likely die due to suicide and depression in an economic depression than from the coronavirus.

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