Puerto Ricans accuse San Juan mayor of using hurricane spotlight to run for higher office

Puerto Ricans accuse San Juan mayor of using hurricane spotlight to run for higher office
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz made pleas for aid and criticized the response time of U.S. disaster relief after the hurricane hit in September. Her city's constituents are now offering harsh words for her apparent political aspirations. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Months after Hurricane Maria devastated San Juan, Puerto Rico, constituents of the city’s mayor are offering harsh words for her apparent political aspirations.

What made her famous?

Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz made pleas for aid and criticized the response time of U.S. disaster relief after the hurricane hit in September, saying, “If we don’t get food and water into people’s hands, what we are going to see is something close to a genocide.”

The mayor gained further international attention from her public castigation of President Donald Trump during early recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, saying he “has had a big mouth and he has used it to insult the people of Puerto Rico.” But now, many residents of San Juan say they’re insulted by how she handled the tragedy.

While San Juan and the rest of Puerto Rico continue to struggle with a broken power grid and continued shortages of basic necessities, a number of citizens spoke with Fox News about their frustrations.

What are people saying?

Speaking of Cruz, small business owner and San Juan resident Simon Menendez said, “She comes out, goes on television and pats herself on the back. It stopped being about us a long time ago.”

Puerto Rican comedian Roy Vahamonde joked, “She’s not going to go into black water up to here just because. She’ll say: no, no, no, let’s get the cameras.”

According to Puerto Rican online newspaper NotiCel, Cruz hired four different photographers — in addition to her permanent press team — to document her visits to residents, emergency events, and the mayor’s activities. But a city spokeswoman told the paper the photos were just for documentation and “served to show the world that things are not back to normal like President Trump would like people to believe.”

What about the political aspirations?

Others have said that the mayor’s media appearances are self-serving. Cruz will likely run for higher office, and her critics have accused her of using the hurricane-recovery platform to garner votes.

Edwin Melendez, the director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, called Cruz an “opportunist.” Former Puerto Rico Attorney General Jose Fuentes called her a “political hack.”

Prior to Hurricane Maria, Cruz’s approval rating stood at 24 percent. Melendez said Cruz is trying to use attention generated by the storm for political advantage. “Local and federal responses were not up to par in Puerto Rico and that opened up an opportunity for her. She got the spotlight. She took it,” he said.

Cruz is widely expected to run for resident commissioner – a non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives followed by a gubernatorial bid, Charles Venator Santiago, associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut, told Fox News.

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