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Puerto Rico governor responds to Trump tweets about federal presence on island

By on October 12, 2017

(Felipe Torres/CB)

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said Thursday that the White House’s obligation to allocate and provide federal resources to Puerto Rico during its recovery phase after Hurricane María is the law–not a decision.

“Citizens in Puerto Rico will continue to demand that they receive the same treatment during the emergency and reconstruction of Puerto Rico,” the governor said in response to a series of tweets by President Trump regarding the presence of federal resources on the island.

In one of the tweets, Trump said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Army and other federal personnel cannot stay on the storm-hit island “forever.”

“I’m not here to interpret what the president says,” Rosselló said, adding he called the White House to request a clarification, which was given by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who reiterated the administration’s commitment to Puerto Rico’s recovery.

“The press secretary clarified today, at our petition, [Trump’s] statements. She reiterated that the White House and the president continue supporting the efforts in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida and Texas, and that the comments were made stating that successful recoveries are the ones that can be done faster so people can reach normalcy quicker,” said the governor, adding that under the Stafford Act, when FEMA assists an emergency situation it can’t leave before it is solved.

“It isn’t a decision per se, it’s a law that these resources must be provided for Puerto Rico,” he added.

To date, more than 16,000 federal personnel from the departments of Defense and Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and other entities are on the island assisting in recovery efforts.

When asked if he was satisfied with the White House response, Rosselló said: “As long as they are working for Puerto Rico, that is what matters here. If the moment comes when it seems Puerto Rico isn’t getting that collaboration, not only will we be unsatisfied, but we will be advocating that Puerto Ricans have all the resources.”

More than three weeks after María passed, the storm-related death toll stands at 45, nearly 90 percent of the island doesn’t have electricity, and a great number of areas remain isolated in terms of communication and difficult access to food and potable water.

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