San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz is shutting down White House claims that the federal government is doing all it can to support Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria completely devastated the U.S. territory over a week ago.
Cruz slammed Elaine Duke, acting secretary of Homeland Security, over her Thursday comments, which lauded the “amazing” federal response to the disaster.
“I know it’s a hard storm to recover from,” Duke told reporters outside the White House. “But I know it is really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place in such a devastating hurricane.”
But the situation continues to be dire as people in need await aid deliveries, said Cruz, who was shocked and appalled by Duke’s statement.
“Maybe from where she’s standing it’s a good news story,” Cruz said on CNN’s “New Day” Friday. “When you are drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story.”
“I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me,” she continued, holding back tears. “Frankly, it’s an irresponsible statement. ... Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story. This is a life or death story. ... This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water.”
“If I could scream it a lot more louder ― it’s not a good news story when people are dying when they don’t have dialysis, and when the generators aren’t working and the oxygen is not providing for them. Where is there good news here?”
It’s been more than a week since Maria ripped through Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 5 hurricane ― the strongest storm to hit the island in over 80 years. There have been at least 16 Maria-related deaths on Puerto Rico, though experts said they expect the death toll to rise as recovery efforts continue.
Let's get it done. ... Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Isn’t that the American way of doing things? Carmen Yulin Cruz, mayor of San Juan
President Donald Trump has come under fire over his response to the disaster. He tweeted over a dozen times last weekend about the NFL, yet didn’t mention Puerto Rico once on the social media platform during that time. The president pushed back against claims from lawmakers who suggested he ought to spend more time focused on disaster relief and less on the football players protesting during the national anthem.
“I have plenty of time on my hands,” Trump said Tuesday during a news conference when asked if he was too distracted by the NFL to focus on Puerto Rico. “All I do is work.”
The seemingly contradictory statements were followed up Friday with tweets, in which the president quoted Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello’s statement about the federal government’s relief efforts.
Cruz isn’t buying it though. She made another desperate appeal to Trump on Friday, asking him to step up the response efforts and figure out a way to deliver much-needed aid to struggling Puerto Ricans, despite logistical issues.
“Thank you for calling San Juan yesterday and listening for our May Day call,” said Cruz, speaking directly to Trump through CNN. “There are 77 other towns that are waiting anxiously and will be very grateful to you and to the American people if you continue to step up to the moral imperative that you have taken on all over the world to help those in need.”
“So help us,” she continued. “I know he can do it because he did it yesterday with San Juan. Somebody heard me. They just came to San Juan and things started moving and rolling. But this has to happen on a continuous basis for the entire island of Puerto Rico.”
“Let’s get it done. ... Let’s put a crew of people out there with enough equipment and let’s just push things out of the way and move. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Isn’t that the American way of doing things? You never get distracted by the obstacles and move ahead and push on and show the world what you can do. Let’s show them. Let’s just show them one more time what the U.S. can do.”