The media’s newest shiny anti-Trump personality, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, made the most of her sudden wave of adulatory free publicity in a revealing interview during the latest edition of Univision’s weekly Al Punto program, proving our contention that, aside from a few dedicated correspondents (and local media on the island), there was very little interest in covering the aftermath of Hurricane María’s devastating run through Puerto Rico until a clear Trump-adverse political angle emerged.
Belying her previous protestations that her criticisms have no political motive, in her interview with Jorge Ramos, Cruz was quick to weave her criticism of Trump’s response to Hurricane María in Puerto Rico into an overall sweeping critique of the President’s alleged “lack of respect" for U.S. Latinos, Mexicans and women.
CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, MAYOR OF SAN JUAN: Of course, he hasn't respected the lives of Latinos in the United States. He hasn't respected the lives of Mexicans in the United States. He hasn't respected the lives of women in the United States.
Neither Cruz’ hyper-partisan antics nor Ramos’ special interest in indulging them before a broader audience should come as a surprise to anyone who read our initial profile of the San Juan socialist, or to anyone who has read this byline for any period of time. And the interview certainly fulfilled its intended purposes both of being Trump-adverse, and of further cementing Cruz as the current favored face of Trump’s political opposition.
However, one must be careful to look beyond the stagecraft of the interview (such as Cruz’ “NASTY” t-shirt, concealed by a jacket for an earlier interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid and apparently crafted by one of the lucky few Puerto Ricans who have regained electrical power), and look to the broader political play here.
Univision’s national coverage of Puerto Rico (and by extension, that of Jorge Ramos) has long played up a separatist agenda, and has given preferential treatment to politicians who advocate for the island's independence. That is why Congressman Luis Gutiérrez, from Chicago, is the news division’s go-to voice on coverage pertaining to Puerto Rico, and why the network disgraced itself earlier this year as it elevated and nearly deified convicted FALN terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera.
Mayor Cruz, for those who didn’t know, is the leader of the separatist faction of the island's Popular Democratic Party, which has long been aligned with Democrats in the continental U.S. Cruz, who was endorsed by Bernie Sanders in her 2016 mayoral re-election campaign, supports independence for Puerto Rico and is widely expected to run for Governor in 2020. It is within this backdrop that the interview, laced with separatist iconography and language, played out.
Note the flag that hangs behind Cruz’ right shoulder - the favored revolutionary version of Puerto Rico’s flag, most easily distinguished by the pale blue field in which its lone star rests, in contrast to the more conventional, long-standing version of the flag that features a dark blue field (matching the dark blue of Old Glory).
Note especially the clear separatist language used by Mayor Cruz in referring to the United States not as her nation, but as some other - a language which in fact frames her previously cited incorporation of Puerto Rico into Univision’s broader, preferred anti-Trump narratives:
SAN JUAN MAYOR CARMEN YULIN CRUZ: What we expect from the American nation that we know through her generosity, the amiability and solidarity of her citizens is that the head, who represents that nation before the world, express the values of that nation.
Of course, he hasn't respected the lives of Latinos in the United States. He hasn't respected the lives of Mexicans in the United States. He hasn't respected the lives of women in the United States.
It is a profound disappointment, because I know that this does not reflect the values of the North American people and it does not reflect the love, the affection and the devotion of 25 men and women that Mayor Bill de Blasio sent from New York over here to San Juan, and that they are doing an extraordinary job.
I truly regret the President’s statements, they are outrageous, they are irresponsible, and they do not represent the best of the North American nation, nor (do they represent) the affection and respect for life that that nation has shown throughout the world.
This othering talk of “the American nation” and “that nation”, when framed with the revolutionary flag, clearly demonstrates a separatist inclination that Univision is all too willing to normalize and portray as mainstream. Recall that it wasn’t that long ago that Gov. Ricardo Rosselló had to chide Ramos for misrepresenting Puerto Rico's independence movement as somehow having widespread support, despite never exceeding single digits in any referendum.
By lionizing Cruz, the media clumsily splits Puerto Rico’s issues into two camps. Univision should know better - yet insists on portraying a dangerous separatist demagogue as the face of Puerto Rico, doing the Puerto Rican community a grievous disservice in the process. Beware socialists bearing friendly talking points.
It is very fitting, though, that Ramos and Cruz have now found each other. Neither of them represent who they say they represent.