CHICAGO (CBS) — Congressman Luis Gutierrez said, while the Trump administration might be painting a rosy picture of relief efforts in Puerto Rico, the island is facing a “humanitarian crisis,” and the government should do more to bring people there to the mainland U.S.
“They don’t want you to know the truth,” Gutierrez said of the Trump administration Thursday, while standing outside the U.S. Capitol with other members of Congress of Puerto Rican descent. “See if there’s water, see if there’s electricity, see if there are doctors and medical attention; and if you don’t see it, ask the question: shouldn’t we put them in a safe place now?”
Gutierrez said he wants to see a massive airlift to get Puerto Ricans to safety while the island rebuilds. He said when FEMA distributes water and other supplies, they should also ask people on the island if they want to be relocated. He said the cost of bringing people from the island to the mainland would be minimal, because many Puerto Ricans have relatives here willing to give them a place to stay.
The congressman said the federal government needs to do more to help the people of Puerto Rico, and he accused Trump of trying to make the situation after Hurricane Maria seem better than it really is. He specifically pointed to videos of Trump throwing rolls of paper towels to a crowd of storm survivors while surveying the damage in the city of Guaynabo, a wealthy suburb of San Juan that largely was spared when Maria hit two weeks ago.
Gutierrez visited Puerto Rico last week to survey the damage and bring back relatives stranded on the island. He said there are hundreds of thousands – two-thirds of the U.S. territory’s population – suffering in the mountains, and added the images of people joyful and laughing in front of the president is not the reality on the island.
“When we came back, we said the same thing that every reporter that’s down there is saying; that this is a humanitarian crisis. They don’t want you to know the truth,” he said. “Every story we get is a story of human tragedy, of life and death, and that struggle. They should be able to come back to the mainland of the United States. If this were Houston, we would have already driven there.”
Approximately 95 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power, two weeks after Maria made landfall. Authorities have said it could take up to six months to restore power to the entire island.
Local officials have said they still need help with food, clean drinking water, communications, and more.