Trump says FEMA, the military can't stay in Puerto Rico forever

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U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a statement on the deadly protests in Charlottesville, at the White House in Washington, U.S. August 14, 2017.
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a statement on the deadly protests in Charlottesville, at the White House in Washington, U.S. August 14, 2017. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

US President Donald Trump has stated that Puerto Rico’s power grid and infrastructure were a "disaster" before the hurricanes, then suggested that the federal government's emergency responders can't stay in the storm-ravaged island "forever.” He also mentioned a financial crisis that is "largely of their own making.”

"'Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making,' says Sharyl Attkisson,” the president tweeted. He added that “we cannot keep” the FEMA, the military and the first responders in Puerto Rico forever, adding they have been amazing in the most difficult circumstances.

On Thursday, White House chief of staff John Kelly said that Trump’s tweet was “exactly accurate” as first responders "are not going to be there forever. "There will be a period in which we hope sooner rather than later, the US military and (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), generally speaking, can withdraw because then the government and people of Puerto Rico are recovering sufficiently to start the process of rebuilding,” Kelly added, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, an FEMA official told CNN it has "no hard deadline" as to when it will pull resources from the island as that decision will be based on the ground’s conditions. The official said the agency will pull back resources as appropriate once things are "stabilised" in Puerto Rico, adding that it is the "natural progression of a response to a disaster,” and that FEMA's priority now is to "move from the response phase to recovery.” The official said this phase usually takes years.

The tweets from the president come three weeks after the hurricane first struck Puerto Rico. The storm has claimed the lives of 45 people, according to authorities. Puerto Rico's Department of Public Safety spokesperson Karixia Ortiz said 113 people remained unaccounted for.

Trump’s tweets on Puerto Rico immediately received criticism. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York asked him why he continues to treat the island differently than other Americans when it comes to natural disasters.

Schumer tweeted that the FEMA has to stay in Puerto Rico until the job is done. He added it is not even close to done right now as there is still devastation and Americans are still dying.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California argued that Americans must not be abandoned in their time of need. She said PR and USVI need more help, not less, from the federal government.

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