San Juan mayor begs Trump for help with hurricane relief, says people are dying
'You are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy,' says Carmen Yulin Cruz
The mayor of Puerto Rico's capital did not hold back Friday in an emotional plea to the Trump administration, saying conditions on the hurricane-ravaged island would be "something close to a genocide" if the U.S. president didn't "take charge and save lives."
"I am done being polite, I am done being politically correct. I am mad as hell because my people's lives are at stake," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said at a news conference.
If we don't get the food and water into people's hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide.- San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz
"If we don't get the food and water into people's hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide," she said.
Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, has killed at least 16 people on the island and left widespread damage to homes, roads and infrastructure.
"If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy," Cruz said.
Saturday morning, Trump responded to Cruz's criticism in a series of tweets, saying there has been "poor leadership" in Puerto Rico and "They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."
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.—@realDonaldTrump
...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....—@realDonaldTrump
...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.—@realDonaldTrump
The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed.—@realDonaldTrump
'This is a life-or-death story'
As most of the U.S. territory's 3.4 million residents faced a 10th day without power and struggled to find clean water and fuel, Cruz lashed back at comments by a top U.S. official who said the federal recovery effort in Puerto Rico was "a good news story."
"Damn it, this is not a good news story," Cruz told CNN angrily on Friday. "This is a people-are-dying story. This is a life-or-death story."
Acting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, head of the parent department for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said on Thursday she was satisfied with the disaster response so far.
"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," Duke said.
The mayor of San German, a town of about 35,000 in the southwestern corner of the island, echoed Cruz's harsh words.
"The governor is giving a message that everything is resolved, and it is not true," Mayor Isidro Negron Irizarry said in Spanish on Twitter. "There is no functional operations structure. We are alone."
More troops, supplies on the way
Gov. Ricardo Rossello has called the destruction to the island unprecedented, though he has praised the U.S. government's relief efforts.
Duke travelled to Puerto Rico on Friday, joining Rossello for an aerial tour of the island. She told reporters she was proud of the recovery work being done, but said she and Trump would not be satisfied until the territory was fully functional. She took no questions from reporters and did not specifically address her "good news" comment or Cruz's response.
Ground transportation, hampered by fuel shortages and streets blocked with fallen vegetation and utility wires, remained a major challenge.
More troops, medical supplies and vehicles were on the way to the island, the senior U.S. general appointed to lead military relief operations told CNN on Friday.
Asked how long it would take for Puerto Rico to recover, Lt.-Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan gave a slight sigh and said: "This is a very, very long duration."
Trump has defended his administration's handling of the disaster. He is scheduled to go Puerto Rico on Tuesday.
Financing the rebuilding of the island is set to be complicated after Puerto Rico filed the largest-ever U.S. local government bankruptcy in May, weighed down by $72 billion US in debt.