Biden goes to Florida, battered by Hurricane Ian and stronghold of a bitter opponent
Joe Biden travels to Florida on Wednesday, where Hurricane Ian has caused death and devastation, with a firm intention of temporarily hedging political divisions in that state, which is being led by one of his most vocal opponents.
The US President and his wife, Jill Biden, will arrive in Fort Myers, in the southwestern state at around 18:45 GMT, where the hurricane made landfall and caused most of the devastation.
The Presidential couple will be able to ascertain this during a helicopter flight before meeting local political leaders and then residents affected by the disaster as relief efforts continue and a very long recovery process begins. .
The US President will then deliver a speech at 21:15 GMT.
Struck by Category 4 hurricane Ian last Wednesday, Florida is still counting its deaths and assessing the extensive damage caused by one of the most violent storms in recent American history.
The official death toll on Tuesday was 76 (72 in Florida and 4 in North Carolina), but American media counted more than a hundred deaths while rescuers are still at work in water-logged neighborhoods.
Hundreds of thousands of Florida residents were still without power as of Tuesday, and authorities said it would take months and cost $50 billion or more to rebuild devastated coastal areas.
– “This is not the moment” –
If Joe Biden uses all his natural empathy on such occasions, the atmosphere might still be a little tense when he’s standing next to Governor Ron DeSantis, a rising star in the Republican Party and a particularly virulent critic of the Democratic president.
“There will be many opportunities to discuss the differences between the President and the Governor. But now is not the time,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.
Joe Biden and Ron DeSantis “will be talking about what it takes for Florida to go into a rebuilding phase,” she added.
This is the second such trip in a week for the US President: he traveled Monday to Puerto Rico, an American territory in the Caribbean devastated by another hurricane, Fiona.
The name Ron DeSantis, 44, appears frequently in lists of potential Republican candidates for the 2024 presidential election.
The Florida governor, hardline on immigration and very conservative on social issues, regularly makes a name for himself with his controversial statements and decisions.
He recently flew migrants to Washington and a popular vacation spot for the Democratic elite, Martha’s Vineyard. The White House has “cruelly” destroyed a “political maneuver (…)”.
Ron DeSantis also passed legislation in March banning teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation in public elementary schools, text his critics say could harm young people from the LGBT+ community.
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