WASHINGTON — President Trump lashed out at the mayor of San Juan on Saturday for criticizing his administration’s efforts to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, accusing her of “poor leadership” and implying that the island, which lacks electricity and has limited cellphone service, water and fuel, was not doing enough to help itself.
In a series of early-morning messages on Twitter, Mr. Trump dismissed the statements by the capital’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, as political and asserted that his administration had organized a response by federal workers who are “doing a fantastic job.”
Mr. Trump said his critics in Puerto Rico should not depend entirely on the federal government. “They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort,” he wrote. “10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job. The military and first responders, despite no electric, roads, phones etc., have done an amazing job. Puerto Rico was totally destroyed.”
The seemingly slow response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico, an American territory — especially compared with the federal response to storms in Texas and Florida — threatened to become a political disaster for Mr. Trump as critics compared it to President George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Mr. Trump has alternated between expressions of resolve and concern on the one hand and angry recriminations against critics on the other.
Ms. Cruz became a powerful voice of grievance on Friday when she went on television to plead for help and reject assertions by the Trump administration about how well it was responding. She was incensed by comments made by Elaine Duke, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, who had said on Thursday that it was “really a good news story in terms of our ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths” from the hurricane.
“This is, dammit, this is not a good news story,” Ms. Cruz said on CNN. “This is a ‘people are dying’ story. This is a ‘life or death’ story. This is ‘there’s a truckload of stuff that cannot be taken to people’ story. This is a story of a devastation that continues to worsen.”
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