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President changes his tone about Puerto Rico

Published Oct. 14, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump sought to reassure Puerto Rico on Friday that he was not abandoning the hurricane-ravaged island, shifting his message a day after blaming its leadership for the territory's ongoing crisis and warning that he "cannot keep" federal troops and emergency workers "in P.R. forever."

In a morning Twitter post, Trump stuck to his position that Puerto Rico was deeply troubled before Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit, but he cast the point in a tone of greater solidarity. "The wonderful people of Puerto Rico, with their unmatched spirit, know how bad things were before the H's," he wrote. "I will always be with them!"

He repeated that sentiment in a speech later in the morning. "These are people that are incredible people," he said, referring to residents of Puerto Rico as well as other places hit by recent storms. "They've suffered greatly and we'll be there. We're going to be there. We have, really — it's not even a question of a choice. We don't even want a choice. We're going to be there as Americans and we love those people and what they've gone through."

Trump has sent conflicting messages about Puerto Rico, at times offering expressions of resolve to help those devastated by the storms and at others seeming to blame the island for its own troubles and lashing out at people who have complained about an inadequate federal response. The contrast with his more consistent approach toward Florida and Texas when they were struck by hurricanes has fueled suspicions about why he has treated the predominantly Hispanic island differently.

Three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, 83 percent of the island was still without power, 36 percent had no running water and 45 percent was without telecommunication services.

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