With great reluctance, Trump sent the USNS Comfort to assist the sick and injured in Puerto Rico. Now, the vessel is departing prematurely for no apparent reason.
Donald Trump’s response to the devastation left by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is heartlessly subpar in every conceivable manner. Even on the few occasions when he was guilted into doing the right thing, he has reversed himself as soon as the attention went away.
Nothing better demonstrates this than how Trump directed the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort.
The vessel, which has 1,000 beds and is equipped for trauma care in widespread disasters, was only deployed to Puerto Rico after Hillary Clinton urged Trump to do so. It became an indispensable part of medical care on the island as authorities struggled to restore electricity and water. Between Oct. 3 and Nov. 7, after which it had to restock, the USNS Comfort treated 4,799 sick and injured citizens in Puerto Rico.
But this week, the USNS Comfort was inexplicably directed to leave Puerto Rico, even though the island still doesn't have the infrastructure or resources to provide medical care to all of those in need.
This confounding decision comes one month after Trump allowed the Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico to expire. That waiver, which Trump again granted only reluctantly, exempted the island from a law restricting the delivery of cargo from foreign vessels, so that hundreds of shipping containers of food and medicine that were needlessly stacking up in ports could be distributed to people in need.
Thanks to Trump's decision to let the waiver expire, people struggling to recover from the devastating hurricane were suddenly faced with increased costs for food and other essential supplies.
Now, Trump has turned his back on Puerto Ricans yet again, prompting outcry from lawmakers like New York Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, who expressed her concerns about the ship's departure to Shareblue Media:
While I appreciate greatly the service of women and men aboard the Comfort, with half the Island still without electricity, I can’t understand why the Comfort would depart. I continue to believe this asset could have been used more appropriately had the Trump Administration been better prepared for Maria and deployed this vessel and personnel earlier. In any event, Puerto Rico needs all the help it can get and withdrawing this vessel now seems premature.
American citizens are in a time of crisis, and Trump is doing nothing to ensure that their needs are met. Puerto Rico deserves answers on why they have been given the short shrift yet again.