The Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, said Wednesday that bureaucracy and inefficiency across local and federal government entities are to blame for the deaths of nearly 3,000 on the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which came to light as part of a newly released study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government.
In particular, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz blamed President Donald Trump, federal officials and Puerto Rican officials for not providing more assistance in what the Puerto Rican government now acknowledges was a storm deadlier than Hurricane Katrina.
“You know, everybody is responsible because there were people in power that had the opportunity to request more aid, to request more aid when it was reasonable, to request more aid when it was needed, to tell the truth and they didn’t,” Yulín Cruz told CNN “New Day” host Alisyn Camerota. “It’s 2,975 people and they’re still calling it an estimate – 2,975 people that will never see the light of day and many of them died because of what was done by the administration and that was silently approved by most of the political class in Puerto Rico.”
“The administration killed the Puerto Ricans with neglect. The Trump administration led us to believe they were helping when they weren’t up to par, and they didn’t allow other countries to help us,” Yulín Cruz said, later adding, “Shame on President Trump. Shame on President Trump for not even once, not even yesterday, just saying, ‘Look, I grieve with the people of Puerto Rico.’”
In a statement Tuesday following the Puerto Rican government’s decision to raise the death toll, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump “remains proud of all of the work the Federal family undertook to help our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico.”
And Wednesday afternoon, Trump said his administration did a “fantastic job” in Puerto Rico, despite a drastically increased death toll.
“I think we did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We’re still helping Puerto Rico.”
The President said recovery efforts there were difficult because of an already-languishing electric grid and the fact the US territory is an island.
“Puerto Rico was actually more difficult because of the fact it was an island,” he said. “It’s much harder to get things on the island.”
“I only hope they don’t get hit again, because they were hit by two in a row,” Trump said, adding later, “Puerto Rico had a lot of difficulties before it was hit.”
Yulín Cruz, responding to Sanders’ statement, asked, “What is there to be proud of? 2,975 dead. Is that what he’s proud of? Is (the President) proud of that maybe this is over, and he thinks it will go away? It’s not going to go away. We’re going to remember this forever. This will be a stain in his presidency for as long as he lives because rather than coming here to support us, he came here to throw paper towels at us.”
Yulín Cruz said that even now a year after Hurricane Maria the island is not ready for another storm.
“No, no we’re not. First of all, people are traumatized,” she said. “Most of the hospitals still don’t have any generators. In San Juan, our hospital has two generators and a 10,000 gallon tank of diesel, so we have done as much as we can do to prepare, but we’re not ready.”
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.