White House Pushes Positive Propaganda Campaign as Puerto Rico’s Crisis Continues

As the president praises aid efforts, residents of the island’s rural areas report “we haven’t seen a government official or anything, no FEMA, no military, no local government.”

(COMMONDREAMS) — As President Donald Trump continues firing off tweets that praise the highly criticized U.S. response to a growing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, other members of his administration are pushing a positive public relations campaign to contradict harrowing on-the-ground reports, according a memo leaked to Axios Sunday morning.

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“In contrast to dire reports from the island, White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert sent West Wing colleagues an unusually upbeat update—leaked to Axios—that points to a rapid recovery no one on the ground is witnessing,” the outlet reports.

“This is still an urgent situation,” Brossert acknowledged in the memo, before adding: “I hope to turn the corner on our public communications.”

Bossert then outlined a PR plan for the coming days:

“I recommend that today and tomorrow we use the general theme of supporting the governor and standing with the people of Puerto Rico to get them food, water, shelter and emergency medical care. Monday and Tuesday we can pivot hopefully to a theme of stabilizing as we address temporary housing and sustaining the flow of commodities and basic government services, including temporary power. After that we focus on restoration of basic services throughout next week and next weekend. Then we start a theme of recovery planning for the bright future that lies ahead for Puerto Rico. Planned hits, tweets, tv bookings and other work will limit the need for reactionary efforts.”

“The President’s visit Tuesday will inspire the people and let them know we all care,” Bossert added.

Though there was no mention of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz—whom Trump attacked on Twitter Saturday after she criticized his administration for its limited disaster relief efforts as well as misleading comments about conditions on the island—Bossert noted that Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, a Republican, “should continue to get more public messaging support from us.”

Although aid if finally reaching some of the island’s more rural regions, many residents of the U.S. commonwealth remain without food, drinking water, fuel, or electricity.

As Reuters reports Sunday:

“More than half of Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people lack access to drinking water 11 days after Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory, and 95 percent remain without power, according to the U.S. Defense Department. Some are expected to be without power for months…. Maria, the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, has destroyed roads, making it difficult to get food, water, and fuel around the island.”

Federal Emergency Management Administration officials annouced Saturday that a third of the island’s telecommunications network was repaired, but when Reuters reporters spoke with residents of rural towns such as Salinas and Fajardo, many said they not only lacked cell service but also they had not seen any local or federal officials in their areas.

As hundreds of people waited to enter a Fajardo Wal-Mart store on Saturday morning, one resident said: “We haven’t seen a government official or anything, no FEMA, no military, no local government.”

By Jessica Corbett / Creative Commons / Common Dreams / Report a typo

This article was chosen for republication based on the interest of our readers. Anti-Media republishes stories from a number of other independent news sources. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect Anti-Media editorial policy.

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  • Originally posted 09/30/2017

    It is a tragedy that is unfolding in Puerto Rico. I read an article three days ago from Disclosure and after doing so I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone could live through something so destructive. I was shocked to learn the power would not be restored for six months. It’s difficult to imagine the upcoming challenges the residents of Puerto Rico will have to endure. In Texas (where I live) and Florida, we as citizens were able to stage, then form volunteer first responder and rescue groups with private equipment and personal resources. If we could have driven our trucks in San Juan we would have. It is immediately apparent that the need for help is overwhelming the resources of the island territory. It begs the question. Why didn’t the mayor ask for assistance prior to at least the second hurricane if not the first one too?Bureaucracy is slow, it’s like watching grass grow. However, the Governors of Texas and Florida put the paperwork and requests through to FEMA and POTUS prior to these events, knowing it would be needed. That said, the Governor has stated: “The federal government has answered all of our calls in an expedited manner”. The landlines for phones are 100% working on the island. Water utilities are over 54% working on the island. There are 61 hospitals on the island, of them 9 are operating on regular electrical power, the remaining 52 hospitals are up and running on backup power that is sustainable with diesel fuel stored on site at each hospital. Mobile phone service is largely out, but there is service to 10% of the island. All container ships are in the ports and being uncrated and distributed to the municipalities. FEMA is also delivering the supplies to remote areas that cannot travel to pick up the needed supplies. 710 of the 1110 gas stations are running normally and at least half of the banks are open and atm’s are distributing cash amounts up to limits personally set by users. To aid in the recovery the U.S. government has placed 10,000 people on the island. As an added and proactive measure, President Trump led the reversal of the Jones act and was successful, and at the time of writing this post, there were four U.S. ships steaming into port to assist in an already expedited recovery effort.


  • When the mayor of San Juan spoke to the news, begging for the federal government to come and save the lives of people actively dying on the island, she excoriated President Trump and FEMA for their inability to manage a disaster rescue/recovery operation. Which seemed to me like a statement made either out of panic or possibly misplaced anger from the copious amount of stress she has had to endure over the last two weeks. Having just been an active participant in the Hurricane Harvey event here in Texas I could understand how someone could lose their composure when having to mitigate the aftermath of a category four hurricane. I said to myself, wow, after knocking it out of the park on two consecutive hurricanes in 4 different states, something must have finally gone wrong with FEMA management or our resources must have been depleted and that was why Puerto Rico had the perception they were not getting the aid they so desperately needed. So I turned my attention to the information coming out of Puerto Rico by way of its citizens through texts, social media posts, and second party sources. What immediately
    became apparent to me and the entire world was this Mayor has been less than forthcoming with the truth. Apparently, Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz forgot to mention that among the troubles her constituents were facing…. You can’t make this stuff up folks…. was a Truckers Union that had been and was on Strike. The work stoppage has crippled and halted the distribution of all goods including relief items sent to the island, including the contents of 3000 “reefer” or refrigeration units filled with perishables that are lined up on the docks awaiting the infrastructure that is supposed to be in place as per the agreement with local municipalities and FEMA as well as the Governor’s office. That’s not all though after the call was put out to activate the Puerto Rico National Guard less than 50% reported for duty. This is disturbing, to say the least. How convenient, albeit asinine and counterproductive for Mayor Cruz not to divulge this especially crucial information. The corruption in Boricua is massive and entrenched. Florida residents! It would be wise to prepare yourselves for 3.4 million new neighbors.