The mayor of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico cast serious doubt Saturday on the claims made by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has repeatedly attacked President Trump and accused him of abandoning Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
Guaynabo’s mayor, Angel Perez, said in an interview with The Daily Caller that his experience with the federal government has been different from Cruz’s, in part because — unlike Cruz — he has been participating in meetings with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other federal agencies.
Cruz has repeatedly accused Trump and the federal government of abandoning Puerto Rico. She demanded in a press conference on Friday that Trump do more to help the island, adding that “we are going to see is something close to a genocide” if more is not done. (RELATED: Trump Takes On San Juan Mayor For ‘Nasty’ Criticism Of Puerto Rico Response)
Mayor Perez told TheDC that the story Cruz is telling the media doesn’t mesh with what he has seen from the federal government.
“My experience is different. I have been participating in different meetings at the headquarters of FEMA and our government and the help is coming in and right now my experience is different from hers. I’m receiving help from the government, we are receiving assistance from FEMA, I got people over here helping us with applications for the people that have damage in their houses. And we have here in Guaynabo, we have thousands of people that lost partially or totally their houses,” said Perez, who is a member of Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party.
Perez’s comments echoed what FEMA administrator Brock Long said on Saturday. Long defended Trump’s tweets blasting Cruz and indicated that Cruz has failed to connect with the FEMA command center set up on the island to help with the relief effort.
When asked about Cruz’s “genocide” statement, Perez said, “I don’t know why she is saying that. What I can tell you is my experience. She is not participating in any meetings and we had a couple already with the governors and with representation of FEMA and of HUD, of these whole federal agencies that have given us help and she’s not participating in those meetings and some mayors from her political party have been participating, so I don’t know why she is saying that. My experience is very different.” (RELATED: San Juan Mayor Praised Convicted FALN Terrorist)
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
“Some [mayors] would like the help to be faster but we also know that FEMA is dealing with what happened in Houston and in Florida and now in Puerto Rico,” Perez said.
One thing that the mayors are counting on the federal government for is “blue tarps” to patch over damaged and missing roofs, Perez said. He noted that “thousands of people have lost completely their houses but some of them have lost partially their houses so if we have the blue tarps maybe we could help them not to lose everything in their houses.”
“So what FEMA has told us is that [the tarps] are on the way and as soon as they get to Puerto Rico they will get them to us,” Perez said. “Most of [the mayors], that’s what they are asking.”
“Sure, we need gasoline, diesel for our generators and our machines and everything but that’s internal problems with the person that sells the diesel and the gasoline and the everything because they haven’t had the people to drive the trucks,” he added. “It’s been hard to get that over here and I know that the government is helping, so we are expecting maybe by next week that that will be in the past and that we won’t have any problems with that.”
In his interview with TheDC, Perez stressed that Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis has left the island largely unable to solve its own problems.
“Remember that before this hurricane we had a fiscal crisis and so there is not enough opportunity for us or for the municipalities. It is less because we can’t take a loan or something or some bonds, we can’t because of our fiscal crisis so we need a lot of help from the federal government,” Perez said.
“We need the assistance from the Congress and the President because of our fiscal crisis, if we don’t have that help it’s going to take, forget it, maybe a decade,” he added later in the interview. “It’s going to take a while for this island to get on our feet again.”
Perez said the situation in Guaynabo, which has a population of just under 100,000, is devastating and said that the situation around the island is largely the same.
“It’s devastating. It’s not only one municipality, Puerto Rico is divided into 78 municipalities and in each one of them you will have thousands and thousands of families that don’t have food right now, their houses were damaged partially or totally,” Perez said, adding that “for example, also right now in my building from the municipality, I think I have damage over 30 or 40 million dollars.”
Despite the devastation both in Guaynabo and across the island, Perez said that he remains optimistic, and expressed hope that Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico on Tuesday will have a positive impact.
“I’m very optimistic. President Trump visiting Puerto Rico, I think it will level up and increase our optimism and our faith, not only in the federal government but our faith in the Congress and that the president is going to help us and that more help and more funds are going to come to our island,” he said. “The visiting of some senators and some representatives now coming to Puerto Rico also and now the president, I think that’s the best thing to give hope to our people.”
“If there was not an interest in helping Puerto Rico, we wouldn’t have the visits from the Congress and the visit from the president — it would never happen,” Perez said.
“In other times there’s been other presidents that never visited. So right now by President Trump coming here, it’s very helpful and giving us the expectation and the hope that the help will be coming to Puerto Rico.”