One-hundred days after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz again slammed President Donald Trump’s response to a disaster the president says wasn’t a “real catastrophe,” even though it left at least 64 dead.
“He was disrespectful to the Puerto Rican people, he was disrespectful to the American people who were leaving their homes to come help us here,” Cruz told ABC News on Friday.
“Where he needed to be a commander-in-chief, he was a disaster-in-chief,” she added. “President Trump does not embody the values of the good-hearted American people that have make sure that we are not forgotten.”
Authorities said Friday that 55 percent of the island remains without power after 155-mph winds and rushing floodwaters tore through buildings and infrastructure in September. Electricity may not be fully restored until May in the American territory, which is home to 3.4 million and was already facing a fiscal crisis before the storm. Although Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives arrived quickly, one of its leaders said the agency was “tapped out” from other hurricane-season disasters.
Puerto Rico’s death toll from the storm officially stands at 64, though some researchers suggest the true number of casualties may top 1,000.
Cruz told ABC she hopes the true death toll comes to light, because “we owe it to the memory of those people to know. And we owe it to the transformation of Puerto Rico: why they died, and how we can ensure that this does not happen again.”
Trump has been criticized for his seeming indifference to Puerto Ricans’ suffering. The president spent a long weekend immediately following the storm at his private golf club in New Jersey, and made a brief appearance at an Alabama political rally.
During a visit to Puerto Rico in early October, Trump said the damage did not constitute “a real catastrophe like Katrina,” and minimized the death toll, which then stood at 16.
“Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud,” Trump told federal and local officials on the island. He appeared to joke about the cost of storm cleanup and tossed rolls of paper towels to survivors in need of supplies. Earlier, Trump complained that Puerto Ricans wanted “everything to be done for them.”
The president also directly attacked Cruz, mayor of the island’s largest city, calling her “nasty” for criticizing government relief efforts. Cruz had begged for more aid, saying in a news conference: “We are dying, and you are killing us with inefficiency and bureaucracy.”
In a subsequent interview, Cruz said Trump’s visit to the island had been a public relations stunt, and called him the “miscommunicator-in-chief.”