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Puerto Rico's Governor Is In Washington To Meet With Trump


All right, 3 million of the island's residents remain without power. One million don't have reliable drinking water. Parts of Puerto Rico look as if a hurricane struck yesterday and not last month. Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, is in Washington to speak with members of Congress, and he will also meet with President Trump today. And I want to bring in NPR's Adrian Florido, who's in San Juan.

Hi, Adrian.


GREENE: Can I just start by asking you to talk about life on the island right now?

FLORIDO: I mean, it's not easy. You know, as you've said, 80 percent of the island is still without power, and so much of the island has blackout conditions as soon as the sun sets at 6 o'clock every evening. We have 12-hour nights where there's really a lot of difficulty navigating streets if you don't have flashlights or headlamps.

A lot of communities still don't have running water, so people are relying on streams and rivers for bathing and bottled water, if they can find it, for drinking or are seeking out communal taps the best they can. Everywhere you go, you see destruction in every direction, David.

And especially, the mangled power lines are the things that have really caught my attention while I'm here - all over the island, mangled power lines that have to be replaced and repaired before this island can even get power again. And it's going to take a really long time to fix all of this that's...

GREENE: God, it is amazing. It sounds like, I mean, a place where the hurricane just hit, and you're just hours on, and not days and weeks. I just wonder - I mean, FEMA is on the ground. The federal government has a presence. President Trump has to know the conditions there. If you're the governor, do you come to the White House and you just reiterate and underscore how bad things are? What message do you think the governor's bringing to the White House?

FLORIDO: I mean, he said yesterday, you know, giving a preview of his visit to the White House today before he left the island - he said that his message was going to be very clear and that was that Puerto Rico needs more help. I mean, the island's recovery is going really slowly, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that the island simply does not have the money to speed this recovery up.

A week ago, the House of Representatives did approve more than $6 billion in disaster relief for the island, including about 5 billion in loans so that Puerto Rico doesn't run out of cash. But yesterday, the governor also said he'd be requesting an additional 4.2 to 4.6 billion to provide short-term help to certain sectors of the economy.

And so, I mean, these requests obviously require some delicate maneuvering on the part of Governor Rossello because of the mixed messages that President Trump has been sending about the federal government's responsibility to help, last week saying that he doesn't think the federal government and FEMA could be here forever. And the governor under...

GREENE: Which is a powerful - which must be something that people on the island hear and react to, if they're being told by the federal government, you know, we can't just stay there for long to help you.

FLORIDO: They're that - they're upset by it because the - you know, the - again, 3.5 million U.S. citizens on Puerto Rico. It's not some foreign land or foreign country. It's a U.S. territory. And I think that that's what the governor is going into the White House today, planning to emphasize, which is, we're talking about Americans here.

GREENE: And delicate maneuvering, as you said, because the governor has been upbeat about FEMA's response. He's got a good relationship with Trump but has to be responding to that anger on the ground about the government's role.

FLORIDO: Oh, absolutely. I mean, he sent a - like the president, the governor is a prolific tweeter. And this morning at about 6, he sent out a simple two-word tweet that said, good morning, and he started getting all kinds of responses from people across the island saying, good luck at the White House today, please get what we need.

GREENE: Wow. Well, we'll be following his tweets as the day goes on. NPR's Adrian Florido reporting from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thanks so much, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.