Trump in Puerto Rico

Fernando Mendez | 10/5/2017, 1:47 p.m.
Trump in Puerto Rico
Trump visitó Puerto Rico esta semana | Foto Cortesía

We have mentioned on these pages Mr. Trump’s clumsiness with the English language. He has a tendency to use hyperbole to describe events, even ordinary ones. When he started his campaign for the presidency he said: “I know words, big words.” Well, he doesn’t. Everything is great, terrific, amazing, and it’s always in reference to something he or his people have done. And now he has reached new levels of clumsiness talking about Puerto Rico as he prepared to leave for a visit to the island. “Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by water, big water,” intoned Trump, who seems bent on making former Vice president Dan Quayle seem eloquent. Mr. Quayle said the following upon landing in Hawaii: “ I am happy to be in Hawaii, because Hawaii is here and it has always been here.”

When George W. Bush was in power we used to get nervous when he spoke in public and misused the language making up his own words. “Strategery,” is only one example. But we don't recall fearing that he would insult friend and foe alike. When Barak Obama became president he freed us from such concerns because he spoke with eloquence and aplomb. He was capable of expressing our grief in the face of tragedy and our pride in our accomplishments. Unfortunately for him he had to address the nation more than once during his tenure to confort us in the face of tragic events like Sandy Hook. His eloquence was such that we often forgot the fact that he was responsible for a large number of deportations and accomplished very little in foreign policy, especially about Latin America. But we did not fear he could start a war or offend our allies. Above all, he was comforting after national tragedies as opposed to the effect of Trump’s speeches and tweets.

Mr. Trump visited Puerto Rico on Tuesday October 3, 2017 and held a bizarre meeting at an airport hangar before heading out to San Juan and a couple of other spots that showed the destruction caused by Irma and Maria. At that airport meeting he had a quick encounter with San Juan’s Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. She had caused a stir by complaining about the federal government’s slow reaction after the storm. Trump had responded accusing Puerto Ricans of wanting everything to be done for them. Adding insult to injury the president compared Puerto Rico’s loss of life to that caused by Katrina in Houston, where, said the president, “hundreds and hundreds died,” while “only 16 died in Puerto Rico.”

What Trump fails to understand while seeing only the numbers, is that Puerto Rico’s devastation is across the island, and that 3.5 million people have been left without electricity, without water, without food, and in thousands of cases, without shelter. What Trump fails to understand is that Puerto Ricans feel neglected because they have been under the thumb of the United States for more than a century, and that in spite of their status they are treated as second rate citizens. Trump’s insulting tweets and his words in Puerto Rico are just the most recent calamity they must endure.

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