Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has had more than enough on her plate recently. Late September saw Hurricane Maria wreaking havoc and devastation on Puerto Rico, destroying infrastructure and displacing thousands of residents. Now, weeks after the Category Five hurricane, many residents of the country still lack access to electricity and clean water.
Mayor Cruz’s struggles are now, however, political as well. She made headlines when she criticized the slow reaction of the White House in providing relief for the U.S. territory – and subsequently drew President Donald Trump’s fury over Twitter.
“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,” tweeted the President on September 30th. “… Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”
Trump’s tweets drew immediate fire from audiences all over the internet, from Lady Gaga to Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda to Kim Kardashian. Mayor Cruz defended herself as well, claiming that she had only been asking for help, not intending to be “nasty.”
Cruz’s original comments had criticized the administration but largely begged for better help: “People are dying in this country,” she said in a news conference. “I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying. If anybody out there is listening to us, we are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy.”
Contrary to President Trump’s tweets, Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto’s leadership abilities are far from poor. “Sometimes you have to shake the tree in order to make things happen,” she said to the New York Times, responding to the media attention she had received. “And if that has a political cost, I will take it, as long as it saves lives.”
“Politics is a rough game, and sometimes as females we are taught that you have to play nice,” Cruz once said back in 2014. “Sometimes you can’t play nice.”
During the storm, she and her family took shelter in the Roberto Clemente Coliseum with 689 others, terrified and waiting for the worst to pass. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, she has spoken up, demanding for more efficient help from the United States and wading through the flooded streets of San Juan in order to help residents.
Mayor Cruz has been a source of solace for the people of her city; with electricity down and potentially out of reach for months, and with overall communication poor, mayors have been the main figures of authority for the disoriented and devastated residents of Puerto Rico. She has overseen the distribution of supplies, comforted and helped citizens, and rapidly mobilized her forces in any emergency – whether it be a hospital fire or an evacuation of a retirement home. With her compassion for her residents and her courage in raising her voice, Mayor Cruz has proven herself as a leader during times of distress.
We applaud Mayor Cruz for her strength and determination throughout both the tragedy of Maria and the criticisms from her peers. You can answer her call for help by donating to Hurricane Maria relief here.
Featured Image by DFID – UK Department for International Development on Flickr
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