Mayor of San Juan Begs for Help But Trump Calls Her Weak Instead

SAN JUAN — When Hurricane Maria destroyed the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, it turned the mayor of its capital city into a spokeswoman for a stranded people.

Carmen Yulín Cruz told the world of the “horror” she had witnessed in San Juan’s flooded streets, which she had been walking ever since the storm, on an island she expects to have no power for half a year.

Until then, she had not been a well-known politician outside the island, which many mainland Americans don’t even know is a U.S. territory.

But after Cruz criticized Washington’s response to the hurricane this week — “save us from dying” — President Trump decided to size her up on Twitter.

“Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan,” he wrote Saturday. The Democrats must have gotten to her.

Since the president brought it up, we present below the historical record of the leadership abilities of Cruz, before and after the storm.

So Who is Cruz?

Like many Puerto Ricans, she left the island to pursue opportunities on the U.S. mainland, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science at Boston University and a master’s degree in public management and policy at Carnegie Mellon.

She stayed on the mainland for many years afterward, according to her official biography, and worked her way up to the position of human resources director at several companies, including Scotiabank and the Treasury Department.

In a 2014 interview with a small New York newspaper, Cruz described the tug of war between their home island and the mainland that she and other Puerto Ricans often feel.

“I often say to my friends that I felt too Puerto Rican to live in the States; then I felt too American to live in Puerto Rico,” she said. “So when I settled back in Puerto Rico in 1992, I had to come to terms with all of that.”

Cruz plunged back into politics after returning to the island after 12 years on the mainland.

She became an adviser to Sila Maria Calderon, then the mayor of San Juan, and who later became Puerto Rico’s first and only female governor.

“People are dying in this country,” Cruz said at a news conference on Friday. “I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy.”

And with that, the mayor of a ruined city merited a mention from the President of the United States.

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he wrote on Twitter.

The latter remark perplexed some experts on Puerto Rican politics.

“I don’t know if Trump’s comments shows an utter lack of understanding of the political situation in Puerto Rico, or if it’s just a cover to rally his base,” said Yarimar Bonilla, an anthropologist at Rutgers University. “It makes no sense. Politics in Puerto Rico are completely different than the mainland.”

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