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The Mayor of San Juan Just Eviscerated Donald Trump For Claiming His Hurricane Response in Puerto Rico Was a 'Success'


The Mayor of San Juan Just Eviscerated Donald Trump For Claiming His Hurricane Response in Puerto Rico Was a 'Success'
Carmen Yulin Cruz (left) and President Donald Trump (right).

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz criticized President Donald Trump after he claimed his administration's efforts in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria "is one of the best jobs that has ever been done."

"If he thinks the death of 3,000 people os [sic] a success God help us all," Cruz said in part.

She added: "Can you imagine what he thinks failure looks like?"

A George Washington University study published last month revised the island's official death toll to 2,975 people, many of whom died due to lack of aid, electricity, water, and access to medical care. The Trump administration shuffled its feet in response to the disaster and was savaged for offering aid remarkably quickly to the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma by comparison. Many joined the San Juan mayor in slamming the president.

Trump responded soon after, giving his administration "A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida," adding that they "did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico." He also called Cruz "incompetent."

The Trump administration was plagued by scandals related to its response to the storm, however, as Second Nexus pointed out yesterday:

The awarding of the multimillion dollar electrical restoration contract to a company with no disaster experience that belonged to a friend of a cabinet member brought allegations of corruption and cronyism. The official death toll remains unresolved. And getting into Twitter feuds with both the Governor of Puerto Rico and the mayor of San Juan hurt the Trump administration’s public image.

The president was also derided as callous and insensitive for an appearance during which he tossed paper towels into a crowd of hurricane victims.

A POLITICO investigation found the Trump administration's response to Hurricane Harvey was "faster and greater, at least initially" than its response to Hurricane Maria:

No two hurricanes are alike, and Harvey and Maria were vastly different storms that struck areas with vastly different financial, geographic and political situations. But a comparison of government statistics relating to the two recovery efforts strongly supports the views of disaster-recovery experts that FEMA and the Trump administration exerted a faster, and initially greater, effort in Texas, even though the damage in Puerto Rico exceeded that in Houston.

The Trump administration was also heavily criticized for its decision to make Puerto Rico go back to paying higher shipping costs to import supplies to hurricane-ravaged areas. Writing for The Huffington Post last year, Jennifer Bendery noted that:

The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by U.S.-owned and operated ships, which are more expensive vessels than others in the global marketplace. That’s meant that Puerto Rico pays double the costs for goods from the U.S. mainland compared with neighboring islands ― and that U.S. vessels are making bank.

The Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico expired on the night of October 8, 2017, meaning foreign ships could no longer bring aid to the island from U.S. ports. The Trump administration had no plans to extend it. The administration agreed to temporarily lift the shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico on September 28, 2017. That was substantially longer than it took for him to waive it for Florida and Texas shortly before.

"We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don't want the Jones Act lifted. We have a lot of ships out there right now," Trump told reporters at the time. Homeland Security (DHS) Press Secretary David Lapan claimed to waive the act wasn't necessary.

“We believe that extending the waiver is unnecessary to support the humanitarian relief efforts on the island,” wrote Lapan in a statement to CBS. “There is an ample supply of Jones Act-qualified vessels to ensure that cargo is able to reach Puerto Rico.”

This pushback earned Trump a harsh rebuke from Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, who said, “In this emergency phase, while we’re looking to sustain and save lives, we should have all of the assets at hand.”