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Senator Bill Nelson Criticizes Slow U.S. Response In Puerto Rico; Praises Military Effort

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Government of Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossell (left) took Florida Senator Bill Nelson on a visit to the interior of the island.

SAN JUAN – Like many in Congress, Florida Senator Bill Nelson had been frustrated by not being able to see Puerto Rico’s hurricane destruction first hand. So Sunday he took a commercial flight to the U.S. island territory – and voiced some criticism of U.S. relief efforts.

Nelson is a Democrat. But during his one-day visit to Puerto Rico, he said he and fellow Florida Senator Marco Rubio –a Republican – do agree on one thing: It took President Trump too long to get the U.S. military involved in relief efforts after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S territory last month – particularly getting workers and supplies into the island’s demolished interior.

“For one week we were slow at the switch,” Nelson said in San Juan. “The most efficient organization in a time of disaster is an organization that is already capable of long supply lines in combat. And that’s the U.S. military.”

Nelson said things have improved a lot since Trump chose Army General Jeffrey Buchanan to head the mission. Still, more than 80 percent of Puerto Ricans is without power – and may remain so for months.

Appearing with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, Nelson said he’d just visited rural Utuado, Puerto Rico, which showed him how bad things still are. And it reminded him how many Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens, are moving to Florida now. And may not return.

“If they want to return, I’m certainly going to support that. But the question is, When are they going to be able to return? When will the economy bounce back? Will the electrical system be in place?”

WLRN asked Nelson if he thought the Trump Administration is doing enough to convince Puerto Ricans they can remain on the island. He answered with three words: “To be determined.”