Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Friday tore into a comment made the prior day by the acting homeland security secretary, Elaine Duke, that federal relief efforts in the US island territory were “a good news story.”
Duke, speaking outside the White House on Thursday, had said she was “very satisfied” with the progress made in response to Hurricane Maria.
“I know that 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 island has been plunged into a humanitarian crisis since Hurricane Maria hit September 20, and the Trump administration has faced a torrent of criticism over slow and disorganized relief efforts.
When informed of Duke’s comments during an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” Cruz appeared shocked and asked host Alisyn Camerota whether Duke had really made that statement.
Cruz then called the remark “irresponsible” and urged the Trump administration to wait until food and water were “in the hands of people” before talking about good news.
“Well, maybe from where she’s standing it’s a good news story,” she said. “When you’re drinking from a creek it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby it’s not a good news story. When you have to pull people down from their buildings, because – I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me.”
“Dammit, 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 devastation that continues to worsen because people are not getting food and water – if I could scream it a lot more louder. It is not a good news story when people are dying, when they don’t have dialysis, when their generators aren’t working and their generators aren’t providing for them. Where is there good news here?”
Cruz said aid efforts in Puerto Rico had been plagued not by a lack of supplies but by logistical difficulties in distributing food, water, and medicine across the island – particularly in rural areas.
“The good news is that we’re getting heard,” she said. “The good news is that there are boots on the ground. The good news that the people from FEMA have their heart in the right place and the HHS people know what to do. For heaven’s sake, somebody let them do their job.”
President Donald Trump earlier Friday used Twitter to defend his administration’s response to Puerto Rico’s crisis. He quoted the island’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, as saying, “The Administration and the President, every time we’ve spoken, they’ve delivered.”
Trump went on to say “big decisions” must be made regarding the cost of rebuilding the island.
Watch Cruz’s full comments on CNN below:
— CNN (@CNN) September 29, 2017