FEMA Head Says Puerto Rican Politics Slowed Storm Response

  • Infighting hampering Maria recovery effort, Brock Long says
  • Comments come one day after saying he ‘filtered out’ mayor

The Trump administration’s emergency management director said political infighting in Puerto Rico has slowed the pace of recovery from Hurricane Maria.

“Politics between Republicans and Democrats is bad enough — but in Puerto Rico, politics is even worse,” Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said at a briefing with reporters Monday in Washington. “When you can’t get elected officials at the local level to come to a joint field office because they disagree with the politics of the governor that’s there, it makes things difficult.”

Almost three weeks after Maria struck Puerto Rico, just 15 percent of the island’s electricity customers have power, according to numbers posted on a website run by the government of Puerto Rico. Half the island lacks phone service, and about 40 percent of households lack access to potable water. Long said the main cause of the slow response lay with the political leaders on the devastated island, not with his agency, which is charged with responding to emergencies.

“I fully believe we did everything we could,” he said.

While Long didn’t mention any particular officials by name, he has previously criticized the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, as insufficiently involved in the effort. Cruz and President Donald Trump have been at odds since a week after the hurricane, with the mayor accusing Trump of not doing enough to save lives.

Related: Most of Puerto Rico Remains Dark Nearly Three Weeks After Storm

After acting Homeland Security…

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