Trump threatens to end recovery efforts in Puerto Rico amid ongoing crisis

Residents continue to face water and power shortages as diseases spread.

Efrain Diaz Figueroa spends the afternoon sitting on a chair next to the remains of the house of his sister destroyed by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa
Efrain Diaz Figueroa spends the afternoon sitting on a chair next to the remains of the house of his sister destroyed by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

President Trump on Thursday threatened to cease relief efforts in Puerto Rico, where a humanitarian crisis has been underway for the past three weeks.

In a series of tweets early Thursday morning, Trump cited television journalist Sharyl Attkisson — whose show Full Measure airs on stations owned by the right-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group — while pointing to Puerto Rico’s pre-existing debt, which was plaguing the U.S. territory long before Hurricane Maria made landfall as a Category 4 storm.

“‘Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making,’ says Sharyl Attkisson,” Trump tweeted. “A total lack of accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend.”

“We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” he continued.

Puerto Rico’s debt has been a source of consternation for Trump, whose administration has come under fire for its handling of the crisis in the wake of the storm. After initially avoiding commenting on the island’s unfolding disaster, Trump took to Twitter in late September to blame Puerto Rico for its poor infrastructure and financial struggles. That pattern has continued ever since; during a trip to the island last week, Trump made reference to the island’s debt once again.

“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack — because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico,” Trump said during a briefing.

Those comments went over poorly both on the island and on the mainland. Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million inhabitants have faced an uphill battle in garnering attention from the White House despite the severity of the island’s crisis. At least 45 people have died since the hurricane hit, a number that is expected to rise. More than 110 people also remain unaccounted for.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 89 percent of the island lacked power and only half had access to cellular reception. Only 64 percent of Puerto Rico has access to potable water and officials have even advised that the water that is available should still be boiled.

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that food shortages were also becoming an issue; according to its report, approximately 200,000 meals were being prepared per day to feed around 2 million residents. FEMA officials later avoided commenting when asked about the food shortages by ThinkProgress.