President Donald Trump posted a trio of tweets Monday night that appeared to center on Puerto Rico's fiscal debt, as the devastated U.S. territory struggles to recover from powerful Hurricane Maria.
After commending the recovery of Texas and Florida — which were lashed by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, respectively — Trump tweeted Monday: "Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble."
Trump continued, "It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with."
"Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well," Trump added.
Hurricane Maria, the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico since 1928, killed 16 people and left millions without power or communications when it battered the island last week. Beset by food and water shortages, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló issued a statement appealing for help for his "essentially devastated" island.
"My petition is that we were there once for our brothers and sisters, our other U.S. citizens, now it's time that U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are taken care of adequately, properly," Rosselló wrote Sunday. On Monday, he called for greater federal aid and appealed to Congress to pass a relief package and treat Puerto Rico like any other U.S. state, Politico reports.
According to the Associated Press, 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory are without adequate food, water and fuel. Communications are still lacking and electrical power may not be fully restored for a month.
Trump's response, which appeared to put the issue of the island's bank loans before emergency supplies, provoked consternation among some diplomats. "Is the President of the United States saying that the mammoth hurricane damage is Puerto Rico's fault?" posed Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management said aid was getting to the island, and that the agency had more than 700 staff on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, delivering diesel, food and water to communities, reports AP.