San Juan Mayor Gets Candid About Hurricane Relief And What Puerto Rico Still Needs

"It’s a touch-and-go situation still."

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz stopped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on November 29 and spoke to Colbert about how Puerto Rico is fairing more than two months after being devastated by Hurricane Maria.


Cruz, who is known for being very outspoken, didn't hold back when describing how far the island still has to go just to be able to restore some sense of normalcy to the millions of people currently living there. "[The recovery] is not  going as fast as it should," she explained to Colbert, adding that only around 50 percent of Puerto Rico's population currently has power, and even in places where power has been restored it remains incredibly unstable. "We've had two total blackouts in the past three weeks."

For the people of Puerto Rico, Cruz said, the lack of ongoing electricity has been been devastating in a myriad of ways. In addition to hindering the ongoing recovery efforts and making things like complex surgical procedures nearly impossible, Cruz noted how many of Puerto Rico's youngest and oldest inhabitants have suffered. "Our children are going to school only four hours a day because there isn't electricity," she said. "And the elderly that live in buildings, I say they've become human cages because they cannot have the water pumped up."

Though Cruz did say approximately 90 percent of Puerto Rico's inhabitants do have water, a health advisory in place mandates any water must be filtered or boiled before it can be consumed, which is difficult to do without electricity. "It's a touch-and-go situation still," she noted.

Interestingly enough, Cruz then told Colbert that the controversial tax plan currently making its way through Congress will also make things increasingly difficult for Puerto Rico. According to the mayor, the proposed tax reform mandates a 20 percent excise tax on all imports that come from Puerto Rico into the United States even though, as Colbert pointed out, Puerto Rico is part of the United States.

Cruz thanked Colbert for his continued assistance in the recovery effort, which raised a whopping $1 million. "You have been one of those voices that has never forgotten us, and for that I want to be very grateful to you," she said.

When asked how people can continue to help those struggling in Puerto Rico, Cruz said to keep the island in your thoughts and continue to raise awareness about the ongoing recovery process, which will likely take years to complete. She also mentioned donating to the American Federation of Teachers, which is giving water filters to families in need, and a handful of other worthy causes.

"You have never left us alone, and I hope you never forget us because we have a long road ahead of us," she concluded. "Dammit, we're going to make it."


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