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Trump spent most of Puerto Rico visit in wealthy suburb

"Have a good time," he told one resident of relatively undamaged, well-fed Guaybano, while the mayor praised U.S. government response.
Trump Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria
Photo: Getty Images

By all accounts, President Trump's visit to hurricane-wrecked Puerto Rico was not what is traditionally called successful. He said that the rescue and relief efforts had "blown the budget," requested praise and volleyed paper-towel rolls at a crowd queuing for relief supplies.

Today — a week after Trump's primary complaint over former Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price's extravagant use of private jets was that "the optics aren't great" — it's been reported that Trump spent the majority of his time in the wealthy, comparatively unscathed San Juan suburb of Guaybano.

The Washington Post notes that the Guaybano mayor led Trump on a walking tour of a neighborhood in which the greatest damage involved blown-out second-story windows and knocked-down trees. Residents stood outside to greet the president, snapping photos on their cell phones.

"We have a good house, thank God,” said one man.

“That’s fantastic,” Trump replied. “Well, we’re going to help you out. Have a good time.”

Meanwhile, in the further-in town of Caguas, more than 1,200 houses were flattened or suffered serious damage, one person died of diabetes complications in a shelter, and two people committed suicide.

In Guaynabo, Trump visited a church that is popular with conservatives and evangelicals who have moved to Puerto Rico from the continental U.S. It was well stocked with supplies, including meals delivered by chartered plane and more than 7,000 pounds of food.

It was there that Trump seemingly made a comparison between Puerto Rico's situation and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. “What has happened in terms of recovery, what has happened in terms of saving lives — 16 lives, that’s a lot, but we compare that to the thousands of people that died in other hurricanes that were not nearly as severe,” Trump said, citing an official death toll that was several days old.

"Throughout the day, Trump was surrounded by local government officials willing to back up his assertions," the Post noted.

“Your people are doing the right stuff for us,” Pérez Otero told Trump. “And that’s my experience over here in Guaynabo in the helping of thousands and thousands of people. So thank you, thank you, Mr. President."