U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez on Wednesday reacted angrily to President Donald Trump calling the U.S. response to Puerto Rico’s plight after Hurricane Maria an “incredible, unsung success.”
“Three thousand people dead and power that has yet to be restored to the island completely? And that’s success?” Gutierrez said at a news conference in Chicago.
“No. This is a horrific failure.”
An estimated 2,975 people died in the Category 4 storm’s aftermath when medical resources were strained beyond the breaking point.
For many, Trump’s boast about “one of the best jobs that’s ever been done” didn’t square with their daily reality: Blackouts remain common; nearly 60,000 homes are covered by only makeshift roofs; and 13 percent of municipalities lack stable phone or internet service.
“Federal response according to Trump in Puerto Rico a success?” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said in one of a series of tweets. “If he thinks the death of 3,000 people (is) a success God help us all.”
Shortly after Maria hit last year, Trump visited Puerto Rico and was widely criticized for tossing paper towels to storm victims in a manner seen by many as insensitive to the scope of the disaster.
His latest remarks once again dredged up those same hurt feelings.
Trump’s comments also reignited a longstanding feud between the San Juan mayor and Trump; the president fired back, calling her “totally incompetent” and saying the U.S. government “did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico.”
A July report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency noted several shortcomings in its storm response, including that it underestimated how much food and water would be needed and that not enough Spanish-speaking aid workers were deployed.
In June, the Sun-Times reported Gutierrez planned to move next year to Puerto Rico, where he has family and a second home.
Contributing: Associated Press