San Juan mayor used hurricane for political gain, storm-ravaged residents say


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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The mayor of Puerto Rico’s largest metropolis turned a global star when she donned a T-shirt and baseball cap and begged for assist after Hurricane Maria left San Juan in shambles.

And he or she turned a darling of the left when she took goal at President Trump for not doing sufficient to assist her individuals.

Six months later, constituents of Carmen Yulin Cruz are nonetheless struggling for meals, shelter and energy, and plenty of have turned on the chief who they are saying turned her world close-up right into a unending parade of self-promotion.

“If we don’t get meals and water into individuals’s arms, what we’re going to see is one thing near a genocide,” Cruz instructed a global viewers after Hurricane Maria roared onto the island in September knocking out energy and leveling whole neighborhoods in its path.

Her subsequent feud with Trump over restoration efforts turned her right into a liberal star. She’s been on quite a few nationwide tv exhibits — together with The Late Present with Stephen Colbert — and scored a high-profile invite to the State of the Union because the visitor of New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

After the speech, Cruz characterised the president’s pledges of help to Puerto Rico as “hypocrisy.”

However whereas Cruz’s pitch-perfect soundbites make for good TV, there’s a rising frustration amongst her constituents who really feel forgotten and say Cruz’s private political ambitions are coming on the expense of the very individuals she’s purported to be representing.

She employed further photographers to comply with her round post-storm and is even scheduled to make a number of appearances in Holyoke, Mass., subsequent month.

‘It stopped being about us a very long time in the past.’

– Simon Menendez, San Juan enterprise proprietor

“She comes out, goes on tv and pats herself on the again,” Simon Menendez, a small enterprise proprietor in San Juan, instructed Fox Information. “It stopped being about us a very long time in the past.”

A bartender at a well-liked resort in Previous San Juan says she seems like a political pawn.

“We get handed round from politician to politician. They use us and assume we aren’t sensible sufficient to know,” the lady, who requested to not be recognized for worry of retaliation, instructed Fox Information. “It’s insulting.”

Former Puerto Rico Lawyer Normal Jose Fuentes went as far as to name Cruz a “political hack” throughout a CNN interview and instructed she is utilizing hurricane reduction efforts to put the groundwork for future political bids.

Edwin Melendez, director of the Middle for Puerto Rican Research at Hunter Faculty in New York, calls Cruz an opportunist.

“The affect of Hurricane Maria has created a state of affairs of flux in Puerto Rican politics,” he instructed Fox Information. “Native and federal responses had been less than par in Puerto Rico and that opened up a possibility for her. She received the highlight. She took it.”

Certainly, Cruz’s public spats with Trump have stored her within the headlines. She’s additionally used her newfound recognition to focus on political rivals inside Puerto Rico. Primary on her hit listing is the island’s present governor, Ricardo Rossello.

Cruz calls out Rossello each probability she will get for his dealing with of Maria and his help of the Trump administration.  

“She by no means misses a possibility,” Menendez stated. “Lots of people hate him, too.”

Cruz is extensively anticipated to run for resident commissioner – a non-voting member of the U.S. Home of Representatives adopted by a gubernatorial bid, Charles Venator Santiago, affiliate professor of political science on the College of Connecticut, instructed Fox Information.

Resident commissioner is a four-year time period and, if elected, would put her in the identical orbit as among the nation’s strongest political heavy-hitters.

That is likely to be nice for her private aspirations, however it’s solely upped the frustration from individuals contained in the commonwealth who had been already on the fence about her.

4 months earlier than Maria hit, an El Nuevo Dia survey of 1,000 Puerto Ricans discovered that solely 24 % permitted of Cruz’s efficiency, whereas 46 % disapproved. In keeping with the newspaper’s ballot, a majority discovered her to be irresponsible after she backed a nationwide strike in Could in opposition to looming austerity measures.

She raised eyebrows once more after shelling out $12,000 for 4 photographers to comply with her across the island after Maria, taking heroic-looking footage of her serving to residents – many who went viral.

The primary contract, dated Sept. 28, was for José Antonio Reyes García and was adopted by two others on Oct 1 for Alina de Lourdes Luciano Reyes and Wanda Liz Vega Dávila. The final contract was awarded to Ana María Abruña Reyes on Oct. 11.

All 4 offers expired on Dec. 31.

The contracts had been as much as $50 an hour for “skilled companies” that included masking emergency occasions, documenting it for the press, pictures for particular occasions and documenting particular tasks and actions for the mayor or her consultant, in response to Noticel.

Every photographer made his or her personal schedule and labored 20 hours every week.

San Juan spokeswoman Carmen Serrano, who refused requests for interviews from Fox Information, instructed Noticel that the photographs “are a part of our job documenting, with dignity, the catastrophe not simply in San Juan however different areas as nicely.”

She added that the photographs “served to indicate the world that issues usually are not again to regular like President Trump likes individuals to imagine.”

Regardless of the 4 further photographers readily available, one of the vital extensively considered footage got here from Cruz’s everlasting press workforce.

In it, the mayor is waist-deep and wading by way of black, muddy water. She’s received a graying megaphone tucked underneath her left arm and is shaking arms with a younger man drifting down a flooded avenue in a vivid yellow kayak.

‘She’s not going to enter black water as much as right here simply because. She’ll say: no, no, no, let’s get the cameras.’

– Roy Vahamonde, Puerto Rican comic

The mayor’s publicity-driven picture ops are so over-the-top that they’ve changed into a punch line.

“She’s not going to enter black water as much as right here simply because,” Puerto Rican comic Roy Sánchez Vahamonde stated. “She’ll say: no, no, no, let’s get the cameras.”

Cruz’s employees initially agreed to schedule her for an in-person interview with Fox Information, however then canceled. A number of subsequent efforts to contact the mayor had been ignored.

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