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State of the Union 2018: San Juan mayor to be a guest at Trump speech

Approximately 450,000 people are still without electricity four months after Hurricane Maria 

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Tuesday 30 January 2018 20:38 GMT
What to expect from Donald Trump's first State of the Union address

The mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz is set to attend US President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech as a guest of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Ms Cruz made frequent on-camera appeals for food, water, and supplies in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the US territory island four months ago and has killed an estimated 1,052 people - though figures are still being reviewed.

"Throughout the crisis in Puerto Rico, Mayor Cruz has shown extraordinary leadership and fearless advocacy for her city," Ms Gillibrand wrote on Twitter.

"I hope Mayor Cruz's presence...will remind the president and my colleagues in Congress of our urgent responsibility to help Puerto Rico fully recover and rebuild. Our fellow citizens must not be forgotten or left behind,” she added.

Approximately 450,000 residents still remain without electricity on the island.

"Thank you for helping others to remember their moral imperative to the people of Puerto Rico," Ms Cruz tweeted in response.

Ms Cruz and Mr Trump exchanged public insults during the initial relief efforts for Hurricane Maria victims. Logistics and funding issues led to what Ms Cruz and others felt was a disproportionately slow response compared to similar relief efforts for Texas after Hurricane Harvey and Florida after Hurricane Irma.

The President tweeted on 30 September that Ms Cruz had been instructed by Democrats to “be nasty to Trump” and criticised her “poor leadership.”

Ms Cruz told CNN the President was the “hater-in-chief” after Mr Trump said Puerto Ricans needed to shoulder more of the burden for relief efforts because the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could not stay “forever” on the island.

She also hit out at US Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Elaine Duke, who had said of recovery efforts: "This is a good news story, what's happening in Puerto Rico, in terms of ability to reach people and the limited number of deaths that have occurred in such a devastating storm."

San Juan Mayor: "This isn't a good story, this is a people are dying story"

Reacting with shock and anger to the remarks Ms Cruz said on CNN: "Damn it, this is not a good news story".

“Maybe from where she's standing it's a good news story, but when you're drinking from a creek, when you don't have food for a baby, it's not a good news story…"This is a 'people are dying' story,” she said.

On his 4 October 2017 visit to the island, Mr Trump and the mayor met face-to-face and Ms Yulin Cruz was invited to sit in on a White House conference call but told she would not be allowed to speak.

She was not briefed by administration officials on the president's plans during his visit either, she told The Independent.

Ms Yulin Cruz said about meeting the President that his style of communicating “gets in the way," according to the New York Times.

Mr Trump is expected to announce his infrastructure and immigration plans during his first official State of the Union speech.

Other guests of Democrats include so-called Dreamers, people who had been brought to the US illegally as children but allowed to stay and work under the controversial Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme.

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