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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on Wednesday reiterated her sharp criticism of President Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico a year ago.
“More than 3,000 people have died, that’s for sure,” she told the Washington Blade during an interview in Old San Juan. “They died of neglect. They died because they couldn’t have their insulin refrigerated because we didn’t have power. They died because hospitals weren’t ready and because hospitals didn’t have power. Those are deaths that could have been preventable and they weren’t.”
“Some people decided to make this a spin ever since the beginning and tell the world that things were right when things were not right and we lost time and we lost precious opportunities in order to be able to save lives,” added Cruz. “I’m referring to President Trump.”
Hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. commonwealth did not have electricity or running water for months after Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico’s southeast coast on Sept. 20, 2017.
Puerto Rican LGBTI activists with whom the Blade has spoken this week have said there are people who live in the island’s mountainous interior and on the island of Vieques who still do not have electricity or running water. Blackouts, homes with blue tarps as temporary roofs, damaged utility poles and traffic lights that do not work remain commonplace across Puerto Rico.
Cruz spoke with the Blade while she was visiting a photo exhibit in San Juan’s Columbus Square that commemorates the first anniversary of Maria. She also spoke with the Blade less than a month after George Washington University released the findings of study that attributed 2,975 deaths to Maria.
Pictures of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz responding to Hurricane Maria in her city are part of an exhibit in the Puerto Rican capital’s Columbus Square that commemorates the storm’s first anniversary. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who has been reluctant to publicly criticize Trump, has accepted the findings of the study that he commissioned.
Rosselló chairs the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. He has pushed back against Trump’s decision to reject Maria’s official death toll in Puerto Rico, which he made without any credible evidence.
“It’s despicable,” Cruz told the Blade, referring to Trump. “It shows that he’s unhinged from any sense of reality.”
Cruz, who is a member of the Popular Democratic Party that supports Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. commonwealth, pointed out Trump threw paper towels to a crowd of people when he visited a church in the San Juan suburb of Guaynabo less than two weeks after Maria made landfall. Cruz also pointed out Trump rejected the hurricane’s death toll in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Florence was beginning to batter the Carolinas.
“Maria in Puerto Rico is Trump’s Katrina,” said Cruz.
Cruz told the Blade that Rosselló’s response to Maria “was not what we all expected.” Cruz specifically criticized him for raising Maria’s official death toll in Puerto Rico from 16 to 34 hours after Trump left the island.
“I mean, really,” said Cruz. “We knew people were dying. All you had to do was walk around, listen to people, get out of the comfort of air conditioning and you could see. The world saw it. The world saw President Trump throwing paper towels.”
“It’s good that the governor is now pushing back,” she added.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.