NEW YORK — A day after President Donald Trump visited Puerto Rico, and was seen tossing supplies to locals, the NYC city council speaker on Wednesday called the act “disgraceful,” and the entire trip “orchestrated.”
Trump visited the hurricane-ravaged island Tuesday, and received some blowback after footage showed him throwing paper towels to locals; as well as saying "you’ve thrown our budget a little out of whack," referring to the devastation; and comparing the death toll to "a real catastrophe like (Hurricane) Katrina."
The president's visit was merely a photo-op, and not designed to give him a true sense of the destruction, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told PIX11.
"He left an hour earlier than he was projected to be on the island," Mark-Viverito said, calling the event "orchestrated." "I don’t believe he really did get to see the plight of people, and areas that are more remote, removed, that have not had access to supplies, that have not had interactions with FEMA or any other relief workers."
About 15,000 relief workers are believed to be on the ground in Puerto Rico, according to the speaker, who said accurate numbers are not available. She compared this to 40,000 who were sent to Florida and 30,000 sent to Texas in the wake of recent hurricanes.
There seems to be a "double standard" when it comes to the island, she said.
The image of Trump throwing supplies at people could be seen as a representation of the disconnect.
“It was just really disgraceful and an insult to the Puerto Rican people," Mark-Viverito said. “That idea of throwing things at us, like he can’t be bothered or we’re animals.”
The speaker said she is not interested in anyone "becoming an apologist" for Trump, and wants the focus to be on helping Puerto Rico by getting more personnel on the ground who can establish satellite communications and other forms of infrastructure.
“We’re two weeks in, and we still don’t have that set up, and so I don’t think enough attention is being given,” Mark-Viverito said.
Within hours of Trump's visit, the death toll was increased from 16 to 34 — the timing of which the speaker called "convenient."
“Obviously I’m not interested in seeing those number climb, but I’m also not interested in seeing people painting a rosy picture or trying to downplay what really is happening,” Mark-Viverito said of Trump's comments that the hurricane did not cause a "real catastrophe."
Power and access to drinking water continue to be a problem, with 55 percent of customers to not have access to drinking water, and 95 percent of electricity customers still without power.