Posted by on September 30, 2017 1:10 pm
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Update (9:45 am ET): Cruz this morning tweeted out pictures of relief workers helping the people of San Juan, adding that the “we cannot be distracted by anything else” – what sounds like a subtle dig directed at Trump.

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In what was perhaps the harshest criticism of the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz broke down last night during a press conference where she begged President Trump to do more to help Puerto Rico. The disaster response has devolved into a worsening humanitarian crisis she said, and “people are starting to die.” Cruz described the situation as “something akin to genocide” before accusing Trump of treating Puerto Ricans like “animals.”

“So, Mr Trump, I am begging you to take charge and save lives. After all, that is one of the founding principles of the United States…If not, the world will see how we are treated not as second-class citizens but as animals that can be disposed of. Enough is enough.”

It appears that Cruz’ decision to invoke “genocide” and blame Trump for what some have criticized as a sluggish response (earlier, Trump explained that the response had been stymied by the fact that Puerto Rico is surrounded by “big water”) was enough to trigger another presidential rampage, because in a barrage of early morning tweets and retweets (no less then 11 as of the latest count), the president accused Cruz, the Democrats and the “fake news” media of using the disaster to score political points:

“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”…

…Before blaming her “poor leadership ability” for the situation on the ground, adding that the disaster response should be a “community effort.”

He also praised FEMA and the military for doing “an amazing job” despite the power outages, a loss of cell service and torn-up roads that have also complicated the response effort.

In a string of retweets,Trump also shared this Department of Defense video of FEMA workers and national guardsmen distributing food and water to desperate Puerto Ricans. It also showed the stockpiles of supplies that have been sent to the island by the military.

To be sure, comments about the recovery effort by Puerto Rican officials haven’t been entirely negative. Earlier in the week, PR Governor Ricardo Rossello praised what he described as the administration’s “swift” response to Maria. However, Democrats in the Continental US have stepped up their criticisms of the disaster response in recent days, blaming Trump for hesitating to waive the Jones Act – which allowed foreign ships to deliver emergency supplies at Puerto Rican ports – and for the fact that it took nearly a week for US ships stocked with emergency supplies to arrive in the island’s ports.

Trump also accused fake news networks like CNN of unfairly criticizing first responders as a way to “get Trump.”

The president also reminded his audience that he and Melania will be visiting Puerto Rico on Tuesday, and that “people were working hard” to arrange a second stop in the US Virgin Islands.

For the sake of context, the death toll from Hurricane Maria has hovered around 16 for about a week now. Power has been restored to more than half of the island’s hospitals, many of which have been forced to rely on diesel-powered generators to provide dialysis and other life-saving services to patients with dangerous illness. Meanwhile, the island’s battered infrastructure – power grids remain down across 80% of the island and most cell towers have also been knocked offline following Hurricane Maria – was completely devasted.

Trump previously attracted some criticism by tweeting about Puerto Rico’s precarious financial situation, claiming that the island was in “deep trouble” partly because of its massive debt.

Of course, as Trump pointed out, millions of dollars’ worth of supplies have already landed on the island, and thousands of relief workers are there working on the recovery effort. But even as the island slowly recovers from the storms – a process that will take months, if not years – the finger-pointing surrounding what we’re certain the media will try to tag as “Trump’s Katrina” is only bound to get worse.

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