When the Federal Government's response to the disasters in Puerto Rico was put to the test, President Trump enjoys the support of a critical voice – the only representative of the island in Congress, Jenniffer González-Colón.
González-Colón (R), 41, has repeatedly celebrated the President's work and said his warmth and focus after last year's hurricane Maria changed his perception of him. But on Thursday, Trump said on Twitter that Democrats estimated the number of deaths attributed to the hurricane to be 2,975 "to make me look bad". He also provoked on Wednesday the federal government's efforts to rebuild the island "A Plus" and "One of the Best Jobs Ever Made."
González-Colón rejected Trump's false claim. In an interview with the Washington Post, she also accused the Democrats of making policy with the island before the midterm elections, and criticized the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has publicly conflicted with Trump over his reaction.
Q. Do you agree with President Trump's claim?
ON. I have to contradict that, because that's not the reality. , , , I think he does not get the information right. I think he's still working with the numbers he got when he was on the island, and he asked directly about the death rate. He was informed by the local government at the time when the death toll was 64, but the number jumped high afterwards.
Question: Is George Washington University's estimate of 2,975 "surplus deaths" due to Hurricane Maria correct?
ON. Yes. Nevertheless, I would say locally that it is not a controversial topic. People have died. Their families are still grieving. There is a lot of grief. That's our priority. The suffering of the people is our priority, not a collision of the guilty.
Question: Why did the president downplay the death toll?
ON. I do not agree at all with the assumption of the president on the tweet. , , [but] There are a lot of problems related to the death toll. With regard to the original number, the doctors on the island were not prepared to deal with such a toll. How do you fill in the cause of death? It's just the doctor. And if a doctor does not receive instructions on how to deal with a hurricane or a natural disaster, you have differences.
There is also complexity because many people have died of side effects. You can not say that a heart attack is unrelated to a person who never came to the hospital, because if there was no hurricane, that person may still be alive. Dialysis, the same – many people died in the first week, because no power was available for the machines.
Q. Did the Democrats make Puerto Rico a partisan theme?
ON. Unfortunately, some people – like the mayor of San Juan – have used this problem only to beat the president when he was the one to approve the funds and approve the executive orders there. They have Democrats who are trying to take this problem and make a little effort and fuss. For me, that's the tactic for the midterms.
My plea is that instead of focusing on who is to blame or who is to blame, we have many challenges. , , , People are still suffering. This is so much bigger than blaming somebody. We demand more resources. This is a major disaster, and we need to fix it and prepare for a new one, not politics.
I do not want to play the same game. It would be easy for politicians on both sides in the middle, so we have to stop playing politics for everyone. I do not want it to get out of hand and forget it. The fight gets out of hand and distracts from what we need.
Q. Is the president's answer "A plus" and "one of the best jobs ever made"?
ON. Yes. It was a better answer than the Federal Government. This is the first time we have visited the President and the First Lady and the Vice President in less than a month to see how we are fighting the problem. This is the first time that FEMA was on the island before, during and after both hurricanes. This is the first time that Puerto Rico has spent more than $ 44 billion in less than a year.
My experience with President Trump was that he asked me directly, "What else do you need, what else should I do?" He agreed with many exceptions. The federal government paid 100 percent of the cost of the recovery on the island. And he was there. So, I have to say, this is the first time that Puerto Rico gets that kind of money. There were several incidents in which he played a leading role during recovery.
At the same time, it's not all good. We have not received all disbursements of funds allocated to the island. There is bureaucracy and bureaucracy on the island. Again, I contradict the statement that the deaths are not so. And we need more resources.
Question: Did Puerto Rico recover?
ON. We are still a long way from recovery. We lost more than 28 bridges that totally collapsed. , , 400 bridges badly damaged. , , , More than 100,000 were directly affected in their homes, which still use blue tarpaulins as roofs. We were totally devastated. People are still grieving, they are still suffering.
Question: How could the answer be improved?
ON. It's easy to destroy – it's harder to construct. So I do not want people on the mainland thinking that the people of Puerto Rico are not grateful to the volunteers or federal workers. But we still need resources and resources. We are still fighting for more and working with the administration for more.
The study from the George Washington University revealed that the island had a protocol for a hurricane or catastrophe of category 1 and not a higher one. And then we were hit twice. And what about hurricanes or tsunamis or earthquakes? Are we prepared for it?
The problem that lies in all this is that we are not a state. They have people in Puerto Rico who voted for statehood in June – 97 percent voted for statehood. If we were a state, we would have two senators and five representatives. I can not vote on the ground. We have many different friends, but we never had enough representation or funds. We are a colony, a territory, not a state.