FEMA administrator: Puerto Rico’s politics, lack of unity, hindering hurricane response
In the continental U.S., “politics between Republicans and Democrats is bad enough, but in Puerto Rico, politics is even worse in many cases,” Long said, adding that divisions on the island had undermined unity of purpose there.
His comments came at the end of an hour-long session in which he and two U.S. military generals defended the Trump administration’s response to the devastating hurricane. Long singled out the total collapse of communications across Puerto Rico as the greatest impediment to delivering food, water, fuel and other supplies to desperate survivors of the storm, which hit the island Sept. 20.
Reporters also were given a glimpse of the National Response Coordination Center, a war room that’s been operating around the clock since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in late August.
“You definitely have battle fatigue,” Long said of the protracted tropical storm season in which four hurricanes have made U.S. landfall.
Long’s stated desire has been to be apolitical, he said Monday. But Long is a political appointee of the president — he was overwhelming confirmed by the Senate in June — and the administration’s response to Maria has been subject to abundant criticism.
Most prominently, San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, has expressed outrage at what she sees as a failure of the administration to deliver life-sustaining resources. She posted a series of tweets this weekend accusing FEMA of doing nothing when hospitals were in crisis.
President Trump has attacked Cruz on Twitter, claiming she has shown poor leadership, and he also has blamed Puerto Rico’s poor infrastructure for much of the humanitarian crisis since the storm hit.
Long, speaking Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” said he’d long ago “filtered out” the mayor. On Monday he echoed that comment. A reporter asked him if he viewed criticism of FEMA as justified or as simply a political attack on the administration; that’s when he said the political divide in Puerto Rico is worse than it is in the mainland United States.