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Alex Cora says Trump’s remarks on Puerto Rico casualties are ‘disrespectful’

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had friends and family affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora had friends and family affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.(barry chin/globe staff)

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Thursday that President Trump’s attempts to downplay how many people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria last year were disrespectful.

At the end of his usual pregame news conference at Fenway Park, Cora said his homeland had suffered greatly.

“I respect him,” Cora said. “He’s the president of the United States. But I don’t agree with a lot of stuff that he says about us.”

Via Twitter, Trump wrote earlier in the day that Puerto Rico “had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths” when he visited following the storm.

“As time went by it did not go up by much,” Trump wrote. “Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3,000 . . . This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

Cora had many family members and friends affected by the storm. He does not see the island’s plight as a political matter.

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“It’s actually disrespectful for my country,” Cora said. “We see it that way. I know he probably doesn’t feel that way.

“Hey, man, thank you for helping us. He went down there; he did what he did. I hate talking about politics and all that. But I think this is more than politics. This is about a country that really suffered.”

Maria formed last Sept. 16 and struck Puerto Rico four days later. The storm caused widespread damage and electrical and communications blackouts that lasted into the spring.

Related: Alex Cora takes hands-on approach to Puerto Rico relief effort.

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In late August, independent researchers estimated that 2,975 people died as a result of the hurricane. The study, commissioned by the Puerto Rican government, was conducted by George Washington University.

The university released a statement Thursday standing by the methods used to produce its report.

A study by Harvard University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center published in May estimated that 4,645 deaths could be linked to the storm and its aftermath.

“Three thousand, six, 18? I don’t know,” Cora said. “We will never know how many we lost. I hate that people make it a political issue. This is about human beings. The people that went through this, they know what happened.”

On Wednesday, Trump wrote that the government “did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico.”

Cora said the island’s elderly population suffered greatly in the weeks and months after the storm.

“The aftereffects, people don’t talk about that,” he said. “When you don’t have food, you don’t have water, no communication, no medicine. Then this happens.

“One thing for sure, the government helped. We do feel that they helped us. I don’t know if it was efficient, it was enough. I don’t know.”

Cora was the bench coach of the Houston Astros at the time of the storm. Team owner Jim Crane dispatched a plane to bring supplies to the island and evacuate family members of team personnel, including Cora’s immediate family.

In January, the Red Sox organized the delivery of 10 tons of supplies to Puerto Rico. Cora and several players made the trip to aid in distribution.

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“We’re standing up on our own two feet,” Cora said. “Do we need help? Yeah, we do. We know that. But we’ve been battling through it. We’re not where we were but we will be there. It’s just a matter of time.

“It’s a little bit, kind of like, frustrating the topic keeps coming and coming and coming. What’s the point, honestly?”

Related: President’s words stoke the heartache that remains with Alex Cora

Cora said some Puerto Ricans still have tarps serving as roofs on their homes and that recovery efforts will take years.

“It’s been a struggle,” he said. “We’re better than last year, obviously. We’re better than yesterday. We keep getting better. It’s just a matter of time for us to be that enchanted island like back in the day.”


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.