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Carmen Yulín Cruz Praises Americans’ Big Hearts, Warns Trump’s Tax Plan Will Hurt Puerto Rico on The Late Show

It’s been just over two months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and the island is still undergoing a massive recovery effort. San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who’s become a popular spokesperson for the island as she’s led her city through recovery, was on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to update us on Puerto Rico’s progress, thank the American people for their generosity, and warn that certain U.S. government actions and policies are harmful to Puerto Rico’s recovery.

According to Cruz, fifty percent of Puerto Ricans are still without power, because while sixty percent power generation has been brought back to the island, it’s generated from the southern part of Puerto Rico and they don’t yet have the grid they need for that power to get everywhere. What’s more, the power is unstable, and there are still intermittent island-wide blackouts.

This lack of power obviously leads to other problems. Puerto Rico’s children only go to school four hours a day, because of the lack of power in schools. While 90% of Puerto Ricans now have water, they’re still under a health advisory that urges them to boil their water for safety, which is difficult to do without power for their stoves.

Cruz expressed gratitude, both to Colbert and to the American people, for not forgetting about Puerto Rico even though, as Colbert said, “We don’t hear about it on the news on the mainland that much anymore.” She also observed the stark contrast between “the American people have such a big heart…and the American president who has such a big mouth.”

One really important point she made was about Trump’s tax bill. Among other reasons why it’s terrible, the tax bill would hurt Puerto Rico’s recovery, because it increases taxes on goods from Puerto Rico into the mainland by 20%, which would be a disincentive to buy their goods, stunting their economic recovery, which they needed even before the hurricane.

Colbert observes, “But … Puerto Rico is the United States,” thinking it ridiculous that goods from one part of the United States should have special (and higher) taxes on them than from other parts. Cruz sighed and said, “We’re a territory of the United States.”

Part of the United States, or not, depending on what’s convenient. But tell me again how Puerto Rico is responsible for their own financial problems.

Cruz was given the opportunity to share several ways in which we can help Puerto Rico’s recovery, as there’s still so much work to do:

  • Keep Puerto Rico in our thoughts: Continue to share things you see (like this post!) about Puerto Rico throughout your networks. As Colbert said, word about Puerto Rico is dying in the news cycle, so it’s up to us to boost the signal and keep it at the front of our minds.
  • Donate to the American Federation of Teachers’ “Operation Agua” effort, which provides families in Puerto Rico with water filters so they can have access to safe drinking water.
  • Donate to the Union Community Fund at the AFL-CIO: Cruz mentions that the unions have been really helpful in not only raising money for the relief effort, but sending workers to Puerto Rico to physically help with the rebuilding effort.
  • Donate locally to Somebody Help Us/Alguien Ayuda Nos, which is a San Juan municipal fund created to serve all of Puerto Rico in its recovery.

Cruz closes with a plea to Americans on the mainland. “I hope you never forget us, because we have a long road ahead of us…can you say dammit on TV?” Colbert confirms that she can, and she continues, “Dammit, we’re gonna make it.”

Let’s help make sure that they do.

(via The A.V. Club, image: screencap)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.