San Juan mayor lashes out at Trump: 'His actions are unbecoming of a leader of the free world'
The mayor of Puerto Rico's capital on Thursday lashed out at President Donald Trump after he threatened to cut off aid from the hurricane-struck island.
Trump "is simply incapable of understanding the contributions, the sacrifices and the commitment to democratic values that Puerto Ricans have shown over decades," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said in a lengthy statement. "His actions are unbecoming of a leader of the free world."
Three weeks after Hurricane Maria wrought mass devastation on Puerto Rico, the island is still struggling to restore basic services.
Only 10 percent of the island has electricity while only about 65 percent of residents have drinking water, the Pentagon said in a statement. Orders mandating tap water be boiled remain in effect, the Pentagon added.
Amid the humanitarian catastrophe, Trump took to Twitter to threaten an end to aid for the U.S. territory.
"We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!" Trump said using Puerto Rico's initials.
The president struck a very different tone for Texas and Florida, which he promised to stand with “EVERY SINGLE DAY” shortly after those states were wracked by hurricanes before Puerto Rico and now face long-term recovery efforts.
Cruz berated Trump, saying he is "incapable of empathy" while lauding the efforts of American volunteers on the island.
"They did not come for a photo op or to throw paper towels and insults at us," she said, referring to a widely-criticized incident in which Trump threw the basic good at a crowd of Puerto Ricans. "I ask every American that has love, and not hate in their hearts, to stand with Puerto Rico and let this president know we WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE."
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, a fact noted by Gov. Ricardo Rossello who wrote on Twitter that his people "are requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens would receive across our Nation".
White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly defended his boss' comments by telling reporters the military and FEMA first responders are "working very hard" to work themselves "out of a job".
"Our country will stand with those American citizens in Puerto Rico until the job is done," he said seeking to reassure Puerto Ricans.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday on a bill to provide an additional $36.5 billion for hurricane disaster relief efforts, including in Puerto Rico.
“The people of Puerto Rico are American citizens and they deserve federal assistance to recover and rebuild,” Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, said in a statement to Anadolu Agency.
"The Chairman and the Committee fully stand by them in these efforts, and will continue to be at the ready to provide the victims of these devastating hurricanes with the necessary federal resources both now and in the future,” she added.
The House bill includes a one-time payment of $1.27 billion to help Puerto Rico receive access to the U.S. Disaster Nutrition Program.
"Today, we must act quickly to ensure that the federal government is able to fulfill its duty to the millions of Americans in need," Frelinghuysen said on the House floor.