WASHINGTON — Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., the first Puerto Rican-born woman elected to Congress, sharply criticized President Trump’s handling of the hurricane damage on the island in an interview with Yahoo News on Friday evening. The congresswoman also suggested the president is treating Puerto Ricans differently than other U.S. citizens because they are Latinos.
Velázquez expressed shock that Trump gave himself “a 10” on a scale of one to 10 when Yahoo News had asked him to grade his response to the destruction.
“I really don’t know how he arrived at 10,” Velázquez said.
Trump gave himself the perfect score when he spoke to reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday after meeting with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello.
The congresswoman went on to cite figures about the current situation on the island, which is a U.S. territory. As of Friday morning, more than 80 percent of the island was without power, and more than 30 percent lacked reliable drinking water. The devastation was largely caused when Hurricane Maria hit the island on Sept. 20. The storm was a Category 5, the highest level on the hurricane scale.
“This is a month later. I really think that this president is delusional. He’s out of touch,” said Velázquez, adding, “I don’t know if he doesn’t or he is incapable to really understand how disgusting it is … that he seems to be more concerned with self-adulation than what is happening on the ground.”
Velázquez, who visited Puerto Rico shortly after the storm struck, did not hesitate when Yahoo News asked what grade she’d give the president’s response to the hurricane one a scale of one to 10.
“Oh, four,” she said.
Velázquez said she thinks the island’s residents, who are U.S. citizens, would be receiving better treatment if they were not largely Latino.
“I think that, in his mind, Puerto Ricans are not American citizens. Or, if they are and he came to that realization, that they are, you know, less deserving of the government being there for fellow citizens,” Velázquez said of Trump.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Velázquez’s assessment of Trump.
Velázquez’s New York City district has a sizable Puerto Rican population. She said many of her constituents believe Trump is racist towards Latinos.
“What I constantly hear from people around there is just, approaching me on the street and saying that, you know, it’s apparent that there’s some racism in the treatment of Puerto Ricans and Latinos on the part of the president,” she said.
During his meeting with Trump on Thursday, Rossello, Puerto Rico’s governor, declined to give a numerical grade to the White House’s response. However, he repeatedly noted the president has responded to all of his requests.
“The president has answered all of our petitions. … This is still ongoing, so we expect that that’ll continue,” Rossello said.
Nevertheless, Velázquez said the White House’s response to the disaster was clearly inadequate.
“The issue is not if they answered, the issue is what that answer involved,” Velázquez explained. “They answered, they responded, they provided, but apparently it was insufficient. It wasn’t the full force of the federal government.”
Velázquez has previously sharply criticized Trump for tweeting that the military and Federal Emergency Management Agency would not be able to remain on the island “forever.”
For her part, Velázquez said she wants to see a larger contingent from the military and the Army Corps of Engineers on the Island.
“We need boots on the ground to help restore the power grid, and still people do not have water,” she said.
Velázquez is currently in her district, but she plans to return to Puerto Rico next week.
“It doesn’t matter how you want to describe it. This is a humanitarian crisis,” she said.
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