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Trump lashes out at Puerto Rico as House weighs aid package

Thursday, October 12, 2017

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WASHINGTON, United States (AP) — President Donald Trump lashed out at hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico on Thursday, insisting in tweets that the federal government can't keep sending help "forever" and suggesting the US territory was to blame for its financial struggles.

His broadsides triggered an outcry from Democrats in Washington and officials on the island, which has been reeling since Hurricane Maria struck three weeks ago, leaving death and destruction in an unparalleled humanitarian crisis.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, with whom Trump has had a running war of words, tweeted that the president's comments were "unbecoming" to a commander in chief and "seem more to come from a 'Hater in Chief.'"

"Mr President, you seem to want to disregard the moral imperative that your administration has been unable to fulfill," the mayor said in a statement.

The debate played out as the House passed, on a sweeping 353-69 vote, a US$36.5 billion disaster aid package that includes assistance for Puerto Rico's financially-strapped government.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis), said the government needs to ensure that Puerto Rico can "begin to stand on its own two feet" and said the US has "got to do more to help Puerto Rico rebuild its own economy."

Forty-five deaths in Puerto Rico have been blamed on Maria, about 85 per cent of Puerto Rico residents still lack electricity and the government says it hopes to have electricity restored completely by March.

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