Trump accuses Puerto Rico mayor of ‘poor leadership’
President praises federal response, says islanders want ‘everything done for them’
USA TODAY SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO President Donald Trump blasted the increasingly critical mayor of this capital city Saturday for “poor leadership ability” in not being able to “get their workers to help” in hurricane relief, saying the federal government is doing a “fantastic job.”
The president said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz had been complimentary to him only a few days ago, but “has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.” He said the mayor and “others” on the island “want everything done for them.”
In a series of tweets, he also slammed “Fake News CNN and NBC,” which he said “are going out of their way to disparage our great First Responders as a way to ‘get Trump.’ ”
Hurricane Maria killed at least 16 people on the island when the storm hit Sept. 20.
Cruz, in emotional appeals on TV on Friday, has become the face of Puerto Rican officials distraught over what some say is an insufficient response by the U.S. government.
While Trump described the federal response as “amazing,” Cruz publicly called on the president to speed up the delivery of food, water, medicine and fuel, and “to make sure somebody is in charge that is up to the task of saving lives.”
“I will do what I never thought I was going to do. I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying,” Cruz said Friday. “If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency.”
Cruz, in a Saturday appearance on MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” said it wasn’t just her saying the island needs help.
“(A) three-star general (is) saying we don’t have enough,” she said. “So, it’s not only me.”
While more water, food and medicine have been arriving on the island of 3.4 million as a distribution bottleneck eases, many — particularly in remote and mountainous areas — remain desperate for water and other necessities.
Trump unleashed a series of tweets Saturday morning, saying, “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. 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.”
Five hours later, he came back with a slightly softer tone regarding fellow Americans on the U.S. territory: “Despite the Fake News Media in conjunction with the Dems, an amazing job is being done in Puerto Rico. Great people!”
Cruz was particularly pointed in rejecting a statement by acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, who called the government’s response “a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place.”
The mayor retorted: “This is, 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 ‘there’s a truckload of stuff that cannot be taken to people’ story. This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen.”