US President Donald Trump has placed blame squarely on Puerto Ricans for the slow recovery from Hurricane Maria after critics and the mayor of San Juan complained his administration’s response to the US territory’s plight was insufficient.
Eleven days after the devastating storm wiped out power, water and communications systems, about half of the 3.4 million people on the island do not have access to drinking water, and 95 percent remain without power, according to the US Defense Department.
Maria, the most powerful storm to strike Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, has destroyed roads, making it difficult to deliver aid and move the heavy equipment needed to fix damaged infrastructure across the island. The hurricane has killed at least 16 people, according to the official death toll.
Trump, who plans to visit the island on Tuesday, fired off a series of angry tweets from his private golf club in New Jersey, taking aim at the mayor of San Juan, the island’s capital and largest city.
On Friday, Carmen Yulin Cruz criticized Trump’s administration and begged for more help, a plea that received widespread television coverage in the mainland US.
“Such poor leadership by the Mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico who are not able to get their workers to help,” said Trump.
“They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.”
Trump – who often turns to Twitter to strike out when his government is under pressure – accused Cruz of being “told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump” and blamed the media for not showing the “amazing job” of responders.
Cruz, who has been living in a shelter after her home was destroyed in the hurricane, said municipal employees were working as hard as they could. She also said her complaints had resulted in more food and water being provided.
Cruz responded to Trump’s attack by saying she had no time for petty politics when lives were at stake.
“Sometimes you have to shake the tree in order to make things happen,” she told the New York Times. “And if that has a political cost, I will take it, as long as it saves lives.”