Following criticism from the mayor of stricken San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, President Donald Trump fired back on twitter on Friday. The president wrote, “It’s disgraceful what the mayor of Puerto Rico is saying and of course is disgusting.” Trump also tweeted, “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.”

Famed reporter Geraldo Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican parentage, responded to the mayor, who claimed that her fellow Puerto Ricans were “dying” while she criticized the president. Rivera tweeted, “On the ground I see the suffering-but feel deeply that attacking President Donald Trump for the ravages of nature and neglect is politicizing tragedy.”

During the interview Cruz claimed, “There are people at all municipalities literally starving, dehydrating. We have had our hospital try to go back to speed but then the electricity goes off and we have to do all the bacteria testing, which takes three to four days.”

Rivera responded, “But are people dying? I’ve been traveling around, I don’t see people dying. I spoke to the doctors, they say they saw 53 patients and they had a person who was septic, but nobody dying.”

To this, Cruz answered, “Dying is a continuum. If you don’t get fed for seven, eight days and you’re a child, you are dying. If you have 11 people like we took out of a nursing home, severely dehydrated, you are dying.”

After the interview, Rivera said, “More houses destroyed, not people killed–the Mayor’s wrong about that.“The death count was 16 a week ago. It remains 16 today. People are not dying. That does not mean that they have all the supplies they need. That does not mean that this power company, this corrupt inept power company should not be hounded.”

Over the weekend, the president tweeted about the federal response to the storm: “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.”

Cruz endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and is a member of the Popular Democratic Party, which advocates maintaining Puerto Rico’s commonwealth status. Despite rebukes from the president, she was apparently unmollified during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Wearing a black T-shirt that said, “Help Us, We Are Dying,” Cruz told Cooper, “We truly are dying here. And I keep saying it, SOS. If anyone can hear us, if Mr. Trump can hear us, let’s just get it over with and get the ball rolling.”

In several tweets on Monday, Rivera offered advice to those seeking to help their fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. He tweeted, “Avoid government. Give to faith-based organizations. They’re closest to people, less corrupt and incompetent.” He added, “Ask your priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, for Puerto Rico relief affiliate. Avoid politicians of all stripes.” Rivera also took New York Times columnist Paul Krugman to task. “Interviewed doctors yesterday. There is no cholera in Puerto Rico. Shame on Paul Krugman. Hatred of Donald Trump allows reckless lies.”

Trump pointed out last week that Puerto Rico was already facing a number of challenges before Hurricane Maria struck. The president tweeted that the island commonwealth was in “deep trouble” after being hit by the storm, and pointed out that it was sundered by “broken infrastructure & massive debt.” He noted the $73 billion owed by Puerto Rico: “Much of the island was destroyed, with billions of dollars owed to Wall Street and the banks, which, sadly, must be dealt with.” He tweeted over the September 30-October 1 weekend that “Fake News” media were working with Democrats to denigrate the government’s relief work in Puerto Rico, while he denounced “politically motivated ingrates” in a Sunday posting.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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