The governor of Puerto Rico on Thursday effusively praised President Donald Trump’s response to the hurricane that ravaged his island last month.
Gov. Ricardo Rosselló met with Trump at the White House and told reporters that the federal government had delivered everything he has asked for in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
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“The facts are that every petition that we’ve made to the president of the United States until this moment, it has been answered. It has been answered,” he said. “The reality is that we still need to do more for the people of Puerto Rico, and that’s why we’re meeting. This is not over, not over by a long shot.”
Rosselló’s assessment stands in stark contrast to the strident criticism leveled by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has emerged as a media darling for her consistent broadsides against the Trump administration.
Asked by a reporter to grade the White House, Rosselló again praised the administration.
“As I said, the president has answered all of our petitions, but this is still ongoing,” he said. “So we expect that that will continue.”
Trump gave his administration a 10 out of 10 and said he remains committed to restoring normalcy to the island.
“We’ll help you, and we’ll all do it together,” he said. “But I will say this, the people of Puerto Rico are amazing, just incredible people, the spirit they have, the strength they have, what they’ve gone through.”
Trump said the federal government is delivering supplies by helicopter to rural, isolated areas of Puerto Rico. He said the number of generators sent there is a record or likely close to it. And he said military personnel have taken over truck-driving duties even though it is not in their “aptitude” in many cases because Puerto Rican drivers are consumed with personal tragedy.
“It’s not the people’s fault,” he said. “They lost their house. They were devastated.”
Rosselló said many challenges remain. Some 80 percent of residents still do not have electricity, he said. About 250,000 people lost their homes, and more than 42 roads have been destroyed, he added.
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Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said his agency during the past 50 days has been involved in 20 different states. He said some 4 million Americans have registered for assistance — more than for Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma, Rita and Sandy combined.
That is the prism through which the Puerto Rican response should be viewed, Long said. He said FEMA is concentrating on restoring regular services to the six largest municipalities, which serve about 80 percent of the population, and then working out from there.
“The traditional recovery is going to require a solution that’s far greater than what FEMA typically puts down,” he said.
Trump directly asked Rosselló how the White House has performed.
“You responded immediately, sir,” he said, adding that he has spoken virtually daily with Long and Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser.
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Rosselló said the unique circumstances of the disaster in Puerto Rico have made recovery slower and harder.
“We recognize that there are some logistical limitations that we have in Puerto Rico,” he said. “We didn’t have the ports open for a couple of days. We didn’t have the airport working at full capacity until about a day or two ago.”