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Homeland Security Chief Clarifies ‘Good News’ Remark

By on September 29, 2017

Acting Homeland Secretary Elaine Duke, left, talks to first responders during her visit Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, in Puerto Rico.  (AP Photo/Luis Alonso Lugo)

SAN JUAN – Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke clarified Friday her comments that the Trump administration’s response to help Puerto Rico recover from the devastation of Hurricane María as a “good news story,” which brought a firestorm of criticism from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.

“I know the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are suffering. We are here to help them…our fellow Americans. I am proud of the work being done,” Duke said during a press conference in San Juan. “Clearly, the situation in Puerto Rico after the devastating hurricane is not satisfactory. Together, we are getting there. Progress is very strong.”

Duke said it was important for her to see the devastation firsthand, to assess the island’s needs and have a “more effective distribution of assets.” Among the areas she saw during an aerial tour included the Cordillera Central mountain region and various infrastructure facilities, such as refineries.

The Homeland Security chief was accompanied by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, and a slew of federal officials representing the Coast Guard, U.S. Amy Corps of Engineers, Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Energy.

She noted that the federal government has more than 10,000 people on the ground in Puerto Rico, many of whom were already on the island before hurricanes Irma and María hit.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz (Agustín Criollo/CB)

Duke’s original “good news” comment was slammed by the San Juan mayor. “When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story,” Cruz said, as quoted by the Associated Press. “Damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people-are-dying story.”

For his part, the governor thanked the federal government again for its efforts in helping the island to recover. Going forward, Rosselló said efforts would be focused on improving the distribution of food, water, medicine and fuel; and improving telecommunications, starting to power water supplies and improving the flow of air traffic out of the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport.

Reaffirming that restoring power to the island will “require a major effort,” he said an alternative would be to establish “microgrids” to start lighting up small areas of Puerto Rico.

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