San Juan mayor to Trump: Hurricane relief, debt crisis are ‘two different issues’

Published 9:57 AM EDT, Tue September 26, 2017
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Story highlights

Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz also shared harrowing details from rescue missions throughout the island

Trump on Monday linked Puerto Rico's recovery from Hurricane Maria to the debt crisis that has wracked the territory

(CNN) —  

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz responded to President Donald Trump’s tweets about the island’s debt crisis and hurricane relief Tuesday, saying “these are two different issues.”

On Monday, Trump linked Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria to the debt crisis that has wracked the territory since last year.

“Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble … It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars… owed to Wall Street and the banks, which sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well. #FEMA,” Trump wrote.

Asked about the tweets on CNN’s “New Day,” Yulín Cruz said, “regarding President Trump, with all due respect, these are two different topics. One topic is the massive debt, which we know we have and it’s been dealt with. But you don’t put debt above people, you put people above debt. So, what we are asking for and what – what I’m asking for, and this is my comment, nobody else’s comment – is let’s deal with the two issues in a separate way.”

She continued: “I think these two issues have no reason to be mangled through – we are thankful for any help that comes our way, and, frankly, there is a moral imperative. When somebody is in need, when somebody is in dire need, when somebody is in a life or death situation, there’s a human, moral imperative to deal with that situation first and then deal with any other situations coming your way.”

Asked what she would request from Trump for assistance, the San Juan mayor pointed to the Jones Act – a century-old law meant to promote shipping by US-owned-and-operated vessels, which has had adverse effects on Puerto Rico’s economy.

“There’s something that can be done quickly, which was already done for Irma. The Jones Act, which makes everything that comes into Puerto Rico – that makes it more expensive, and it can be repealed,” she said.

Asked if a visit by the President to the island would be helpful, the mayor demurred, saying “we live in a world where you can see any part of the world through your phone.”

“I am sure that as the United States President, you know, he can come to Puerto Rico if he wants to. He has been not only tweeting, but I know he has been in contact with the governor, and we appreciate that,” she said.

Cruz also shared harrowing details of rescue missions throughout the island, repeatedly calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” and emphasizing the lack of available fuel for hospitals and medical providers.

“We are finding dialysis patients that have not been able to contact their providers. We are having to transport them in near-death conditions. We are finding people whose oxygen tanks are running out, because our small generators now don’t have any diesel, and disabled people, they live alone and can’t just walk somewhere,” she said.

Cruz continued: “Every time we find a person that is gasping for air – I am not painting a poetic picture, I am telling you I have seen them and held them in my arms – and helped them into an ambulance, and every time we do that we get a little frail, and of course we get a little afraid. But we also get a lot more resolve to push on and move on and to do whatever – our bodies are so tired, but our souls are so full of strength that we will get to everyone we can get to. But the situation in the hospitals is something that has to be dealt with completely and on a sustained basis.”