Trump Rips San Juan's Mayor & Says Puerto Ricans "Want Everything To Be Done For Them"

Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images
By Bassam Khawaja

President Donald Trump has managed to find a personal feud in Puerto Rico's hurricane relief efforts. On Saturday morning, Trump criticized San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz's "poor leadership" in Hurricane Maria's aftermath in a series of tweets following her criticism of the administration's slow response to the devastation in Puerto Rico.

The president tweeted that while Cruz had been "very complimentary only a few days ago," she'd ceded to pressure from Democrats to be "nasty" to him. "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," Trump wrote. "They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort."

On a CNN segment Friday night, Cruz had urged the Trump administration to do more during this time of immense need in Puerto Rico. While telling host Andersoon Cooper about residents trapped in buildings and drinking water out of creeks, the San Juan mayor wore a black t-shirt that made her call to action clear: "Help Us, We Are Dying," it read.

"We're dying here," Cruz said. "We truly are dying here. I keep saying it: SOS. If anyone can hear us; if Mr. Trump an hear us, let's just get it over with and get the ball rolling."

Cruz's frustration with the administration's response to Hurricane Maria also followed Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke's Friday remarks, which involved Duke touting the good press the federal government's relief efforts in Puerto Rico would bring.

"I know 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 at the time.

Cruz expressed her exasperation at the comments that same night, telling CNN in a different segment, "Dammit, this is not a good news story. This is a 'people are dying' story. It's a life-or-death story."

But while the president may be receiving these critiques as a full-frontal attack, Cruz isn't letting Trump bait her.

Following Trump's vengeful tweetstorm, Cruz tweeted out a simple message from her own account: "The goal is one: saving lives," she wrote. "This is the time to show our 'true colors.' We cannot be distracted by anything else."

Cruz is far from the only person to express doubt about the federal government's level of preparedness to deal with the crisis in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló pointed out that Congress has yet to approve an aid package to the territory, providing it with the funds it desperately needs to recover. Others have criticized Trump for taking so long to waive the Jones Act, century-old legislation that bans non-American ships from docking in Puerto Rico and thus has been preventing the island from receiving supplies and donations.

Trump has insisted that the territory presents a unique challenge for the United States in terms of administering aid, Puerto Rico being surrounded by water and all.

“We’ve gotten A-pluses on Texas and in Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico,” Trump said during a Tuesday press conference. “But the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean.”

In previous tweets, the president has also seemingly blamed Puerto Rico for the extent of the damage incurred, writing last week, "Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble."

Some people have viewed these attacks on Puerto Rico, its residents and now Cruz herself as not just in poor taste but racially charged.

"Boy if I didn't know any better I'd say accusing brown people of wanting 'everything to be done for them' was a racist dog whistle," wrote one Twitter user.

But another wanted to take the focus away from Trump and return it to the American citizens in Puerto Rico, who are doing everything they can to rebuild their communities.

"Won't dignify what he said by spreading it more, but here is a picture of children clearing a road in their town," a Twitter user wrote Saturday. "Don't say we aren't doing."