FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 16, 2018
Mayor of San Juan Calls for Continued Federal Commitment to Rebuild Puerto Rico and Thanks Rev. Jackson for “Standing with Us.”
CHICAGO – Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover physically and psychologically from the ravages of Hurricane Maria, more than a year after the storm’s ferocious winds and waves slammed into the island in 2017.
Suicide attempts have skyrocketed, 45,000 homes are still waiting for government aid to fix their roofs and thousands of small businesses remain closed.
The health care system is teetering. Hundreds of physicians and other health care professionals have fled the island, a U.S. territory – home to 3.1 million American citizens.
And Puerto Rico continues to count her dead from the storm. So far, more than 3,400 Maria-related deaths have been recorded.
Yet, President Trump is threatening to cutoff desperately needed aid to help rebuild the battered but proud island.
“You can kill people with a gun or you can kill them with neglect,” Carmen Yulin Cruz, mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, said Thursday at a news conference with Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., religious leaders and Latino community activists, at Rainbow PUSH Coalition national headquarters in Chicago.
President Trump, Mayor Cruz said, “does not have the moral stature to speak on these concerns. This is the same man who says that the fires in California are the making of the people of California. This is the same man that says Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug traffickers. This is the same man who incites hate and divisiveness not only in this country but all over the world. He’s not here to be hater in chief. He’s here to be commander in chief.”
Mayor Cruz and Rev. Jackson called on the Trump administration to immediately release $56 billion allocated for Puerto Rico. The money has been delayed, the mayor said, as Washington bureaucrats argue whether it should go to Hedge funds to pay down Puerto Rico’s pre-Maria debt or into recovery efforts.
“The people should not have to pay for the mistakes of government,” the mayor said. “People should have roofs over their head and access to medical care. Our young people should have access to education. Those are the basics of what a true democratic, just and fair society are all about.”
Rev. Jackson said the Trump administration is “using schemes” to delay and divert the $56 billion from where it is most needed – rebuilding the island.
“There is unfinished business in Puerto Rico today,” he said, vowing to mobilize resources and volunteers to go to Puerto Rico as the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, African American church leaders and Chicago’s Puerto Rican community did last year after Maria devastated the island and the Trump administration was slow to respond.
Mayor Cruz said that most of the 3,400 Maria-related deaths were not the direct result of the storm’s winds and waves “but of a botched effort by an administration that decided to look the other way rather than do its job.”
The people in Chicago and in cities across the mainland, did not look the other way. In a matter of weeks after the hurricane hit, hundreds of thousands of pounds of bottled water, food, hygiene products and other donated relief supplies were collected in Chicago. Rev. Jackson, with the generous support of Fed Ex, personally delivered more than 150,000 pounds of humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico, during a four-day tour of the island.
Joining Rev. Jackson and Mayor Cruz at the news conference were Emma Lozano, pastor of the Lincoln United Methodist Church, and her husband, Rev. Walter “Slim” Coleman, also a pastor, David H. Crawford, president of McCormick Theological Seminary, Rev. Janette Wilson, senior advisor to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Cassius Rudolph, national field director for Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and other supporters.
“The thing that hurts us the most is the inequality,” Rev. Lozano said. “The hurricane didn’t kill the people of Puerto Rico. It was the inequality. They were treated less than other people in other states. That is wrong.”
Mayor Cruz, one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2018, was in snowy Chicago to speak at a conference on green energy. She said she made a special trip to the South Side headquarters of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition to confer with Rev. Jackson and to thank him for his efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico and keep their plight in the public spotlight.
“You just did what had to be done,” the mayor told Rev. Jackson. “As the mayor of San Juan, I will forever be grateful for your help. Thank you for standing with us.”