President Trump on Saturday defended his administration’s hurricane recovery effort in Puerto Rico and cast blame on San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz who is criticizing the president’s effort to get supplies, electricity and other relief to the U.S. Island.
“Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”
Trump pledged Friday to spare no effort to help Puerto Ricans recover from Hurricane Maria’s ruinous aftermath even as Cruz accused the administration of “killing us with the inefficiency.”
Cruz said she wanted to “make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives,” while the president asserted that U.S. officials and emergency personnel are working all-out against daunting odds, with “incredible” results.
Trump also tweeted Saturday: “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.”
And he tweeted: “The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed,” and, “Fake News CNN and NBC are going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders as a way to “get Trump.” Not fair to FR or effort!”
Trump’s acting homeland security secretary, Elaine Duke, visited the island Friday, surveying the landscape by helicopter in an hour-long tour, driving past still-flooded streets, twisted billboards and roofs with gaping holes, and offering encouragement to some of the 10,000 emergency personnel she says the U.S. government has on the ground.
On Thursday, the U.S. military named Lt. General Jeffrey Buchanan to oversee the response effort.
Trump is expected to survey the damage Tuesday.
Duke tried, too, to move on from the remarks she made a day earlier in which she called the federal relief effort a “good-news story.” But on that front, she ran into winds as fierce as Maria.
“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency,” Cruz said in a news conference. “I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying.”
Thousands more Puerto Ricans got water and rationed food Friday as an aid bottleneck began to ease. By now, telecommunications are back for about 30 percent of the island, nearly half of the supermarkets have reopened at least for reduced hours and about 60 percent of the gas stations are pumping.
But many remain desperate for necessities, most urgently water, long after the Sept. 20 hurricane.
Trump said Puerto Rico is “totally unable” to handle the catastrophe on its own. “They are working so hard, but there’s nothing left,” he said. “It’s been wiped out.” He said the government is “fully engaged in the disaster and the response and recovery effort.”
Trump said he was not aware of Duke’s “good-news” remark.
“I haven’t heard what she said,” he told reporters. “I can tell you this: We have done an incredible job considering there’s absolutely nothing to work with.”
Yet even in voicing solidarity and sympathy with Puerto Rico, he drew attention again to the island’s pre-hurricane debt burden and infrastructure woes, leaving doubt how far Washington will go to make the U.S. territory whole.
“Ultimately the government of Puerto Rico will have…