Trump blames Puerto Ricans for slow hurricane response
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sept. 30 placed blame squarely on Puerto Ricans for the slow recovery from Hurricane Maria after critics and the mayor of San Juan complained his administration’s response to the U.S. territory’s plight was insufficient.
Eleven days after the devastating storm wiped out power, water and communications systems, about half of the 3.4 million people on the island do not have access to drinking water, and 95 percent remain without power, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
“I’m a ticking time bomb on the verge of exploding,” said Adeline Vazquez, 53, who needs a ventilator for respiratory problems and whose building in the western city of Mayaguez does not have enough fuel to run a generator 24 hours a day.
Maria, the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, has destroyed roads, making it difficult to deliver aid and move the heavy equipment needed to fix damaged infrastructure across the island. The hurricane has killed at least 16 people, according to the official death toll.
Trump, who plans to visit the island on Oct. 3, fired off a series of angry tweets from his private golf club in New Jersey, taking aim at the mayor of San Juan, the island’s capital and largest city.
On Sept. 29, Carmen Yulin Cruz criticized Trump’s administration and begged for more help, a plea that received widespread television coverage in the mainland United States.
“Such poor leadership by the Mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico who are not able to get their workers to help,” said Trump, a Republican. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
Trump - who often turns to Twitter to strike out when his government is under pressure - accused Cruz of being “told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump” and blamed the media for not showing the “amazing job” of responders.
Cruz, who has been living in a shelter after her home was destroyed in the hurricane, said municipal employees were working as hard as they could. She also said her complaints had resulted in more food and water being provided.
Cruz responded to Trump’s attack by saying she had no time for petty politics when lives were at stake.
“Sometimes you have to shake the tree in order to make things happen,” she told the New York Times. “And if that has a political cost, I will take it, as long as it saves lives.”
The U.S. military is moving in more equipment and personnel to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state officials respond to the destruction from the storm, which landed just as the island was recovering from Hurricane Irma.
While FEMA has said it has delivered millions of meals and liters of water, many Puerto Ricans have said the aid has been too little and has not made it way to large parts of the island.
Many said they are losing patience and wondering why, as American citizens, they are not getting the same relief as residents of Florida and Texas after storms Irma and Harvey.
San Juan resident Judith Berkan said power shortages and long lines for cash, food, gasoline and medical attention were wearing people down.
“Things don’t seem to be getting better,” Berkan, a lawyer, said in a text message.