Political shenanigans mask true problems in Puerto Rico

Political shenanigans mask true problems in Puerto Rico
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This month marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricanes Irma and Maria striking Puerto Rico, and Democrats believe this is a good election-year campaign theme on which to attack President TrumpDonald John TrumpThorny part of obstruction of justice is proving intent, that's a job for Congress Obama condemns attacks in Sri Lanka as 'an attack on humanity' Schiff rips Conway's 'display of alternative facts' on Russian election interference MORE and Republicans.

In fact, Democrats want you to believe that the 3,000 deaths that occurred in Puerto Rico were because President Trump and his administration ignored this Spanish-speaking U.S. territory, home to millions of American citizens.

This claim could not be further from the truth, and is the very definition of fake news.

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First and foremost, the Trump administration’s response was unprecedented — “the longest sustained domestic air mission of food and water response … the largest disaster commodity distribution mission in U.S. history,” spending more than $70 billion in aid, supplying 3.8 million meals, sending 148 airlifts and deploying the USS Comfort.  

Moreover, the Puerto Rican government has been far from transparent about the death toll, so much so that it is difficult to say that the numbers are as they now claim. In June, the Puerto Rican government reportedly refused to hand over death certificates to news outlets; only after several lawsuits and public shaming by the press did it agreed to comply. In August, in a report to Congress, it stated there were 1,400 deaths while keeping the official number at 64. Then, just last week, a FEMA official admitted that the Puerto Rican government knew much more about the death numbers than it had publicly revealed, especially to the Trump administration.

Critics say Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has tried to shield his administration’s failure from the public. Now that a new government-sponsored report has left the local government nowhere to hide, Gov. Rosselló is shifting blame to the president.

Unlike states such as Florida, which recovered quickly, the local government’s mishandling of the death-toll debacle reflects how it is mired in controversy, mismanagement and petty politics.

For example, the Puerto Rican government, in advance of the storms, refused to activate the mutual aid agreement to help restore the electric grid following the hurricane; instead, it gave a contract to a two-person company from Montana. Things were so bad that the U.S. military was preparing for the total collapse of the island’s government following the hurricanes.

Sadly, a year later, Puerto Ricans continue to live without access to clean drinking water,  and 14 percent of the transmission and distribution lines of the electric grid remain down. Moreover, violence and drug trafficking are escalating, and public corruption is increasing.

Perhaps even worse, for months the island’s government allowed the dead to rot in tractor-trailers stashed in an empty parking lot, covered by tarps behind barbed wire. Tipped off that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), at the direction of the Trump administration, was about to raid the facility, the Puerto Rican government moved the bodies in the dead of night.

Democrats don’t want you to know this reality because they don’t want people to criticize Puerto Rico’s governor, a Latino Democrat and Clinton delegate. They know President Trump is a better target.

Gov. Rosselló realizes this, too, quickly turning against the president and rebuking his comment that the rescue, recovery and rebuild have been “successful.”

This is unfortunate. From the onset, President Trump and Gov. Rosselló worked as a team to ensure the best recovery and reconstruction of Puerto Rico. The governor even praised President Trump and the administration for their steadfast, unprecedented response to the hurricanes saying, “Here’s the thing, and I want to be very clear with this. I am very pleased with the consideration the president has given to Puerto Rico. He has been on top of it, at least personally in communication with me and communication with some of our officials as well as his officials.”

So why the sudden change?

Politics.

As the midterms near and the governor’s popularity plummets, Gov. Rosselló has aligned with San Juan Mayor Yulin Cruz to attack President Trump and Republicans.

Gov. Rosselló’s recent turn against the Trump administration illuminates his Obama- and Pelosi-aligned agenda to get Democrats elected across the country, including in Puerto Rican-heavy Florida, where Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTrump administration renews interest in Florida offshore drilling: report Dem reps say they were denied access to immigrant detention center Ex-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances MORE, a Democrat, faces a tough re-election against Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.

Instead of taking responsibility for his shortfalls, Gov. Rosselló continues to blame the lack of statehood as the reason Puerto Rico suffers. It is time that President Trump reevaluate who his friends are in the island and take a hard look at what the governor has been saying. Gov. Rosselló had his chance to make Puerto Rico great again but failed miserably. Now, as an excuse, he attacks the president by blaming the “colonial” status of Puerto Rico. These new attacks are a political charade to mask the deep governance and corruption problems that plague his government and Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s failure in the rebuilding process, excessive public corruption and government mismanagement show that it doesn’t even remotely act like a state. Until that changes, the governor’s statehood plea should be overlooked.

Charlie Kirk is the founder and president of Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit that aims to educate students on free-market values. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieKirk11.