MIAMI – The Trump administration’s “inadequate” response to Hurricane Maria and a provision of the Republican tax bill poised to pass the US Senate will together asphyxiate Puerto Rico’s economy, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told EFE on Friday.
“It’s as if we were intubated and the oxygen literally ran out,” she said, pointing to an element in the tax overhaul that would impose a 20 percent excise levy on Puerto Rican products imported to the continental United States.
The House of Representatives has already approved the Republican tax bill and the Senate is expected to follow suit Friday night, though their respective versions of the legislation will need to be reconciled before President Donald Trump signs the measure into law.
Cruz Yulin, who traveled to Miami for an AIDS Healthcare Foundation Event where she is to be honored for her “courage and leadership,” also called for making the relationship between the US and Puerto Rico more equitable.
Though she wants Puerto Rico to remain a US commonwealth, the mayor says that the island’s people deserve a chance to make an informed choice among the alternatives of commonwealth status, statehood and independence.
She noted with regret that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to conclude its mission in Puerto Rico in two weeks based on what the mayor sees as the mistaken idea that the situation on the island is beginning to stabilize.
Power generation may be back to 60 percent of normal, but the system remains unstable, Cruz Yulin said, while media outlets report that a large number of homes and businesses are still without electricity.
The mayor likewise urged authorities to produce an “accurate” death toll from the hurricane.
The official tally stands at 55, but Cruz Yulin estimates the true figure is closer to 500, pointing out that the number of cremations carried out in September – 911 – was “roughly 400 more than normal.”
“Irma and Maria, devastating as they were, awakened a new consciousness. Perhaps we are the diaspora now, because there are more Puerto Ricans outside of Puerto Rico than living in Puerto Rico,” San Juan’s mayor said.
At least 200,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida since Maria lashed the island Sept. 20.