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A woman stands amid buildings and homes destroyed by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Adding Insult to the 'Injury of Colonialism,' Trump Suggested Selling Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria, Former Advisor Says

"You may try to sell the office you hold, your personal integrity and your soul, Mr. President—but I assure you Puerto Rico is not for sale!" tweeted Rep. Nydia Velazquez.

Julia Conley

According to a New York Times interview with Elaine Duke, who served as Homeland Security Secretary from 2017 to 2018 and worked in President Donald Trump's cabinet when Hurricane Maria severely damaged the island of Puerto Rico, the president suggested selling the territory when it became clear the federal government would have to assist with a major recovery effort.

Duke said in her interview, published Saturday, the president suggested "divesting" or selling Puerto Rico when it was struggling to recover from the storm.

"The president's initial ideas were more as a businessman, you know," Duke told the Times. "Can we outsource the electricity? Can we sell the island? You know, or divest of that asset?"

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), who was born in Puerto Rico, took to social media to condemn the president's suggestion.

"I assure you Puerto Rico is not for sale!" Velazquez tweeted. 

"Puerto Rico is not an asset, it's an island full of culture and beauty," added Hector Oseguera, a progressive who recently ran for Congress in New Jersey's eighth district. 

Duke added that former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, then director of the Office of Management and Budget, dismissed her as being "emotional" when she suggested an emergency declaration as the hurricane approached. 

"It's not about the people, it's about the money," Duke claimed Mulvaney told her. 

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, an outcome which Trump has since called "an incredible, unsung success."

The president complained about having to send aid to Puerto Rico after the storm, remarking that its debts to Wall Street "must be dealt with." The island's debt skyrocketed partially because of Congress ending tax incentives on the island which had drawn businesses there and due to the exploitation of existing debt by hedge funds and "vulture" funds.

Earlier this year following an earthquake which displaced 2,000 Puerto Ricans, Trump continued to withhold $18 million in disaster relief funds which had been appropriated after Hurricane Maria. 

He also complained last year that the territory receives "too much aid" as an estimated 1.3 million Puerto Ricans faced cuts to their SNAP benefits.

The Times' report regarding Trump's suggestion that the U.S. government sell Puerto Rico came a year after White House staffers told the Wall Street Journal that the president had suggested purchasing Greenland from Denmark. That report prompted ridicule from Danish officials including Soren Espersen, foreign affairs spokesman for the Danish People's Party, who called it "final proof that he has gone mad."

Ritchie Torres, who is running for Congress in New York's 15th district, tweeted that Trump's suggestion about Puerto Rico served "as a reminder that the U.S. colonization of the island is and always has been a grave injustice."

"The road to legal equality for Puerto Rico runs through statehood, which would protect the island from the colonial whims of a madman like Donald Trump," tweeted Torres.


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