Resident Commissioner González Says Trump Admin’s Lack of Federal Hurricane Response Cannot Be Blamed for Thousands of Deaths in Puerto Rico

Sep 3, 2018
11:38 AM

Near the end of a Sunday interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, a non-voting member of Congress and a registered Republican, said the following when asked whether the slow federal response by the Trump administration to Hurricane María last year was one of the reasons thousands of people died after the storm.

Here is what she said in Spanish (translation is ours):

“There was a Category 5 hurricane on the island. The island’s infrastructure could not hold up against that storm’s destruction. For many reasons, like lack of maintenance and the storm’s power. We didn’t have power, and this lack of power from the storm’s impact led to thousands of people dying. They lacked access to hospitals, medical services or dialysis to take care of their conditions…”

At this moment in the interview, Ramos interrupts and asks how González can defend the Trump administration for this “national tragedy.”

“Well, if Presidents Obama, Clinton, Bush or Trump—if any one of those Presidents who have led the United States, if any of them would have said, ‘let’s bring the power back on immediately,’ if they could have done that, this would not have happened. But the reality is much more complicated that this. The [federal] help did begin to arrive, but the conditions, the FEMA report itself said the response was slow. I am not telling you that everything here was perfect. What I am saying is that there are many things, many lessons, many choices that we need to attend to so that this never happens again. What can we do now? Now we can stop and place all the blame and responsibility on whoever, but none of that blame will bring back those who have died. This is something painful for the Puerto Rican family, for American families, and I think the moment of reflection is there, but at the same time, if we didn’t have all this [federal] help that we are still getting and that we are working on to extend in many different areas, the situation would have been much worse.”

González’s remarks about the federal response are near the end of the following interview. Before that moment, González admitted that keeping the early official death of 16 deaths was a mistake, although she placed the problem on doctors being unprepared for recording deaths and Puerto Rico ready for only a Category 1 storm.