Arizona Puerto Rican fires back at President Trump

Zulema Rodriguez from the Puerto Rican Center of Arizona commented about the slow process of rebuilding Puerto Rico after the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

PHOENIX - President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump spent part of their Tuesday in Puerto Rico to meet with locals and survey the damage.

But Puerto Ricans in Arizona are criticizing some of the comments he made Tuesday morning.

“I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you’re throwing our budget a little out of whack, because we spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that’s fine. We’ve saved a lot of lives,” the president said at a conference.

"Not only is it trivial, it is inaccurate,” said Zulema Rodriguez's about President Trump's remarks, which also compared the damage on the island to Hurricane Katrina.

Rodriguez was born on the island, so she has skin in the game.

She has been working with volunteers in Phoenix to collect supplies with the Puerto Rican Center of Arizona.

"It's heartbreaking to see that at this stage, two weeks later, folks are still hungry,” Rodriguez said.

She went 12 days before hearing from some of her family with the help of her brother, who went to Puerto Rico last weekend.

"He sent me a message yesterday that our family's hungry,” she said.

She still has other family members who haven’t contact her. She also said the remains of her late grandmother were washed away in the hurricane.

Before his trip, President Trump tweeted "Doing everything we can to help the great people of Puerto Rico."

But Rodriguez said she thinks his comments this morning were inappropriate.

 "[He said] that [Puerto Rico relief efforts] put a wrinkle in the budget,” Rodriguez said. “We didn't plan this hurricane. Yeah. We didn't think, 'You know what would be a great idea? If a hurricane hit the island and devastated it.'"

But the Puerto Rican community in Arizona did have a good idea: To help out.

“The amount of volunteers we have, the amount of good and essentials, shows what America is,” said Rodriguez.” I'm working now with some sustainability farmers on the island. We're going to be OK. It's going to be rebuilt."

The Puerto Rican Center of Arizona is still accepting supply donations, and the people of the nonprofit are working to get the items shipped to the island, directly to the people who need them.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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