Two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump visited the island on October 3. He only stayed for approximately four-and-a-half hours.
Air Force One landed in Puerto Rico at 11:41 a.m., according to the New Day, making this Trump’s first visit to Puerto Rico as president. Trump is the first U.S. president to make an official visit to the island during a state of emergency.
The purpose of the trip was for Trump to see firsthand the struggles that Puerto Ricans face post-Maria and to encourage him to fight for the approval of relief packages in Congress. According to the Puerto Rican governor, Ricardo Rosselló, Maria caused about $90 billion of damages to the island.
Considering the dire situation, former Puerto Rican Senator Kenneth McClintock saw the visit in a positive light.
“For a territory that suffers from never being on the map of the vast majority of our fellow citizens, the visit of any president, and more in a situation like this, helps to put us on the map, not only geographically but geopolitically,” said McClintock.
Nevertheless, he noted the nature of the visit and said that it was more based on the emergency situation than a political desire to pay attention to Puerto Rico.
Trump began his visit with a press conference where he compared the situation in Puerto Rico to a “real catastrophe like Katrina.” When asked how many deaths the hurricane had caused, Trump responded “sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud,” Politico reported.
Trying to be funny, the president later went on to say that Puerto Rico had thrown the budget “a little out of whack.”
During the whole conference, the president never mentioned the steps that he plans to take to help Puerto Rico. Instead, he focused his message on congratulating his administration and the federal agencies for their work, reported the New York Times.
“In Texas and in Florida, we get an A-plus,” said Trump. “And I’ll tell you what, I think we’ve done just as good in Puerto Rico.”
At Calvary Chapel in Guaynabo Trump proceeded to throw paper-towel rolls to the crowd, drawing criticism for its similarity to a jump-shot toss, according to El Vocero.
The president also mentioned the possibility of alleviating some of Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt. In an interview with Fox News, Trump said, “You know they owe a lot of money to your friends on Wall Street, and we’re going to have to wipe that out.”
Despite Trump not being scheduled to depart until 5:10 p.m., the president was already on a plane back to Washington by 4:05 p.m.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who was previously criticized by Trump on Twitter for her “poor leadership ability,” condemned Trump’s attitude during his visit.
“You don’t go to another place when people are in peril and are suffering and you just kind of hover around in a helicopter without having some kind words to say,” said Cruz.
Overall, Puerto Ricans were not very pleased with Trump’s visit and felt that, since he only visited the least-damaged parts of the island, not much will come of the trip.
“It’s just an example of how we’re treated like second-class citizens,” said 51-year-old Marlene Martinez.