Despite criticism, Trump praises administration response to hurricane-hit Puerto Rico

World Today

Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rossello (L) makes a statement for the press as US President Donald Trump listens before a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House October 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski

U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration deserves a perfect 10 out of 10 score for its response to the devastation from Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico. But the president still faces criticism over the island’s recovery efforts. Puerto Rico’s governor traveled to Washington to lobby for more help and met with Trump at the White House.

CGTN’S Roee Ruttenberg reports.

The marks of Hurricane Maria can still be seen all over Puerto Rico. One million Americans are still without running water, and three million are without power. Some locals said it feels like the Category 5 Storm hit the Caribbean U.S. territory only yesterday, but it was actually one month ago.

On Thursday, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello was in Washington for talks at the White House. Recovery aid topped the agenda. Rossello’s host, President Trump,  faced a storm of criticism for his handling of Maria’s aftermath. Regardless, he gave his administration high marks.

“I would say it was a 10. I would say it was probably the most difficult, when you talk about relief, when you talk about search, when you talk about all of the different levels, and even when you talk about lives saved you look at that number. I mean this was — I think it was worse than Katrina,” the president said.

When visiting Puerto Rico earlier this month, Trump said the exact opposite, and downplayed the island’s casualties. Critics condemned his comments. They also questioned Washington’s response to Maria comparing it to other recent Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Those storms  hit mainland, American states. Puerto Rico is not a state, despite repeated referendums on the island that favor becoming one.

Politics, many have said, are at play. Before his island visit, Trump publicly clashed with the liberal mayor of Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan. Carmen Yulín Cruz a rising political star who made an emotional plea for more federal help. On Thursday, Puerto’s Rico conservative governor Ricardo Rossello tried to strike a more grateful tone.

“Do we need to do a lot more Of course we do. And I think everybody over here recognizes there’s a lot of work to be done in Puerto Rico. But with your leadership sir and with everybody over here, we’re committed to achieving that in the long run,” the governor said.

On Thursday, President Trump said he would work with the U.S. Congress to get more aid for Puerto Rico. Some estimates put the damage as high as $95 billion. It’s a painfully high bill for a cash-strapped territory that was already struggling with debt for years.