Donald Trump took a tiny break from feuding with the NFL last night to tweet about the crisis in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, but the mayor of San Juan says the president only muddled matters by equating the lack of food, water, and shelter for millions with the island’s debt crisis.
Carmen Yulín Cruz told CNN on Tuesday morning that Trump’s gesture at the island’s grave issues—many of which were both caused by and are being exacerbated by the U.S. government—was distracting from the situation in the wake of the hurricane, which is only getting worse as the days drag on.
“We are finding dialysis patients that have not been able to contact their providers. We are having to transport them in near-death conditions. We are finding people whose oxygen tanks are running out, because our small generators now don’t have any diesel, and disabled people, they live alone and can’t just walk somewhere,” she told the hosts of New Day.
Cruz went on to further describe what she called a “humanitarian crisis” in Puerto Rico in remarks that are worth quoting in full:
Every time we find a person that is gasping for air—I am not painting a poetic picture, I am telling you I have seen them and held them in my arms—and helped them into an ambulance, and every time we do that we get a little frail, and of course we get a little afraid. But we also get a lot more resolve to push on and move on and to do whatever—our bodies are so tired, but our souls are so full of strength that we will get to everyone we can get to. But the situation in the hospitals is something that has to be dealt with completely and on a sustained basis.
Asked about the president’s tweets about Puerto Rico, which he said was “already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt” and owed “billions of dollars” to “Wall Street and the banks,” Cruz responded, “with all due respect, these are two different topics.”
“One topic is the massive debt, which we know we have and it’s been dealt with. But you don’t put debt above people, you put people above debt,” she said. “Let’s deal with the two issues in a separate way.”
Congress isn’t expected to take up a relief bill for the U.S. protectorate, where more than 3 million U.S. citizens live, until the first or second week of October, but Trump announced today that he’ll visit Puerto Rico next Tuesday to visit the “great people” there. Because that’ll definitely help.
For more news and opinions that get under your skin, follow Splinter on Facebook.