Trump calls San Juan mayor ‘ingrate’ in propaganda war over Puerto Rico relief

The White House narrative just does not match reports from the ground.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz arrives at the San Francisco hospital during the evacuation of patients after an electrical plant failure, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carlos Giusti
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz arrives at the San Francisco hospital during the evacuation of patients after an electrical plant failure, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carlos Giusti

Trump continued his attacks on San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz Sunday morning as part of what has effectively become a White House propaganda campaign. Trump claimed again that Puerto Rico relief efforts are going well, and that reports to the contrary are “fake news” or coming from “politically motivated ingrates.”

Saturday evening, the White House released “readouts” of several calls Trump apparently had with current and former Puerto Rico officials, all of whom praised him and the White House for their efforts. Cruz was not among them.

On Saturday, the White House lashed out at Cruz to suggest she was “too busy doing TV” to be a part of relief efforts. Sunday morning, following Trump’s latest round of tweets, Cruz did, in fact, do another television interview with ABC’s This Week, but rather than retaliate against the President, she simply explained how challenging it has been for relief efforts to reach her constituents.

“There’s only one goal, and it’s saving lives,” she said. “All I did last week or even this week is ask for help. It has to happen in a sustained manner, and it has to happen quickly.” She went on to explain that FEMA keeps telling people to register online for support, but internet access is still widely unavailable across the island. The issue isn’t people’s commitment, she said, but the current availability — or in this case, scarcity — of basic resources.

“On Thursday, I got three palettes of water, four palettes of food, and four palettes of baby supplies from FEMA,” she recounted. “All of this I gave to the mayor of Comerio, a town whose mayor had come to the FEMA distribution center and had been told, ‘Just wait until next Monday because we have nothing.’ And on, and on, and on go stories of mayors.”

Cruz said she’d be happy to meet with the president, “but we have to cut the red tape” that’s interfering with distributing the resources. She also suggested it was more important to talk about saving lives than how much the recovery will cost.

Inside the White House, homeland security adviser Tom Bossert painted a rather rosy picture of recovery efforts. In a leaked memo reporting on his visit to the island this week, Bossert proposed a communications strategy focusing on themes of “stabilization” and “the bright future that lies ahead for Puerto Rico.” He specifically suggests, “The storm caused these problems, not our response to it. We have pushed about as much stuff and people through a tiny hole in as short a timeframe as possible.”

But countless reports contradict the White House’s claims about how well Puerto Rico relief is going. Gov. Ricardo Rossello, one of the individuals Trump had called, told CNN Sunday morning that he was not aware of the building inspections Trump claimed had taken place.

Likewise, reporters from Mother Jones magazine reached the mountain town of Ciales Saturday, a town just 45 minutes from San Juan where all 19,000 residents lost power, to find that not a single federal worker had arrived there. Mayor Luis “Rolan” Maldanado said that he was promised a satellite phone, but it never arrived. The one-day rations provided by the National Guard consist of a small fruit cup, a 7.5-ounce can of Hormel Corned Beef Hash, four small cookies, and a pack of peanut butter and cheddar crackers. Residents are calling themselves “the town of the forgotten,” but with as much as 95 percent of the island still without power, Ciales is likely not exceptional.

According to Trump, reports like these from CNN and Mother Jones are just “fake news.”

Trump will travel to to Puerto Rico himself on Tuesday.

https://thinkprogress.org/white-house-acknowledges-trump-lied-about-witnessing-first-hand-the-devastation-of-harvey-24a197f25361/