SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Outside of official events, many Puerto Ricans say they won’t be welcoming President Donald Trump with open arms during his visit to the storm-wracked island on Tuesday.
People in the U.S. territory were angry or dismissive Monday when asked about Trump’s description of some Puerto Ricans who have criticized the U.S. government’s aid after Hurricane Maria as “ingrates” and about his assurances that the relief effort is going well.
“He’s a piece of trash,” Rachel Cruz, a linguist, said as she head home after buying groceries in the capital, San Juan. “He makes a fool out of himself and a fool out of his country.”
Cruz said Puerto Ricans are furious with power still cut off on most of the island, schools and many businesses closed, and much of the countryside struggling to find fresh water and food, but she said even the angriest were unlikely to openly insult the man ultimately responsible for helping them.
“The majority of people here feel that way, but we have to be more balanced because we need help,” she said.
Even those happy with the federal aid effort for the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million people said they resented Trump’s tweets about some Puerto Ricans being lazy and ungrateful.
“We appreciate all the help that we’ve received, but his comments are not true,” said Nancy Rivera, a private school principal who was out buying bread. “We don’t deserve that.”
Rivera and her husband live in the north coastal town of Toa Baja, which was one of the hardest hit by Maria and where dozens of people had to be rescued from rooftops amid widespread flooding. The couple has moved temporarily to their son’s apartment in San Juan.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello, however, praised federal and state officials for the resources and help they have provided, but he also noted that Puerto Rico has long been struggling because of its territorial status.
“I invite all of you to consider, to think of Puerto Ricans as your constituents,” said Rossello, who supports statehood for the island. “Think about it as a moral imperative because we are U.S. citizens but more importantly, we’re all equal as human beings.”
The governor said water service has been restored to about 50 percent of customers across Puerto Rico. Rossello said he hopes 25 percent of electricity customers will have power by the end of October. Officials have said power would be restored to the entire island before March.
Rossello also announced that the wait time to buy gasoline had diminished from seven hours to one hour around San Juan in recent days and that nearly 40 percent of cellphone clients have service.
Many Puerto Ricans, including Noelys Martinez, a call center worker, expressed doubt that Trump’s visit would change anything.
“The lights are not going to come back on because of him,” she said as she strolled near a park eating ice cream.
Angel Tomas Crispin, manager of a convenience store that was doing brisk business as people sought to restock basic supplies, didn’t have kind words for the president. “Donald Trump is not the solution for Puerto Rico,” he said.
Crispin said he was angered by Trump’s comments about the island. “All this money he has, and all the education he has, and he’s ignorant.”
Luis Torres, a retiree taking an evening walk with his wife, Marina, said Trump isn’t welcome.
“As far as I’m concerned, he shouldn’t come,” Torres said.
His wife nodded aggressively.
“He has expressed himself in such a disrespectful way. Extremely unnecessary and extremely insensitive,” she said. “It’s very sad.”
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