Trump blasts San Juan mayor over relief efforts

He says 10,000 federal workers are doing 'a fantastic job' in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump, faced with rising criticism for the federal response to hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico, swung from defending his administration's approach to lashing out at the San Juan mayor for her "poor leadership ability".

The President, in a series of morning tweets yesterday, said Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, "who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump".

Speaking at a news conference last Friday, an emotional Ms Cruz appeared to take issue to a series of oddly upbeat comments made by Trump administration officials.

"We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island," she said, adding: "(If) we don't get the food and water into people's hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide.

"There is a disconnect between what the Federal Emergency Management Agency people are saying is happening and what the mayors and the people in the towns know that is happening," Ms Cruz, who has been living in a shelter since her own home was flooded, said on CNN.

But Mr Trump told his almost 40 million Twitter followers: "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 want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."

Mr Trump went on to say that there are "10,000 federal workers now on (the) island doing a fantastic job" and an "amazing job". After Mr Trump's blast, Ms Cruz took to Twitter to thank Republican lawmakers who had visited the island. "The goal is one: saving lives. This is the time to show our 'true colours'."

The President plans to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Ms Cruz had blasted acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke for telling reporters at the White House that that the relief efforts were "a good-news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have taken place".

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said at a news conference yesterday that he had been working on logistics while Mr Trump tweeted. But the mayor of San German, a town of about 35,000 in the south-western corner of the island, echoed Ms Cruz's harsh words.

"The governor is giving a message that everything is resolved, and it is not true," Mayor Isidro Negron Irizarry said on Twitter. "There is no functional operations structure. We are alone."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 01, 2017, with the headline 'Trump blasts San Juan mayor over relief efforts'. Print Edition | Subscribe