One of the largest roadblocks to recovery in Puerto Rico is the deep divide between the island’s politicians, according to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator William Long.
The division among Puerto Rico’s leaders has led to some officials refusing to work with Gov. Richard Rosselló, primarily because of his political stances.
“What I’ve experienced firsthand is, a successful response relies on unity, okay,” Long said Monday, according to The Washington Post. “To give you an example, 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 and the information fragmented.”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has been one of the most vocal Puerto Rican critics of the recovery effort and President Donald Trump. Long has stopped taking comments from Cruz seriously, however, accusing her of pursuing an agenda rather than trying to give constructive feedback.
“We filtered out the mayor a long time ago,” Long told ABC News Sunday. “We don’t have time for the political noise.”
Puerto Rico residents have seen very little of the aid that has been sent to the island, especially in rural areas. Large parts of the island’s communications system is still down, thereby hindering the recovery, WaPo reports.
“Over nearly 85 percent of my entire agency is deployed right now. We’re still working massive issues in [response to hurricanes] Harvey, Irma, as well as the issues in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and now [Hurricane Nate],” Long said. “In regards to resources, of course we’re strained.”
Because of the severe state of Puerto Rico, FEMA has been forced to act as a first responder when it’s not designed to operate as such.
“A large portion of local workers as well as state workers were disaster victims. We had to play a greater first responder role than typically we would on the continental United States,” Long said. “We’re not really designed to do that in many cases, speaking honestly.”