Yulín’s “disaster relief” foundation answers to her Absolute lack of transparency in its operations.
San Juan mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, during her appearance on the program of comedian Stephen Colbert.
Within the high profile earned by the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, through
appearances in US programs nationwide, lies an aspect that has been overlooked so far: the
foundation she has been asking people to donate to. According to its incorporation documents, this foundation answers to her as a political figure and as the capital’s mayor.
Yulín Cruz’s introduction into the United States political scenario was her intense confrontation with President Donald Trump, which happened just a few weeks after the hurricane, and was spurred by the federal government’s insufficient response to Puerto Rico’s disaster.
This garnered her the attention and praise of figures such as TV host Ellen DeGeneres, musical artist Cher, and even The Simpsons. This exposure has gone hand-in- hand with the establishment of a non-profit foundation, whose official purpose is to raise funds to help hurricane victims. The foundation Somebody Help Us / Alguien Ayúdenos was incorporated as a non-profit organization in the United
States on October 13, and as a foreign non-profit entity in Puerto Rico on October 23, according to the State Department Corporation Registry.
The foundation uses its webpage, somebodyhelpusalguienayudenos.org, as a platform for the diaspora and people in and outside the island to donate money to help the communities recover.
Two of the three people who incorporated this entity and are part of its Board of Directors currently hold administrative positions in the San Juan municipal offices. The board is headed by Esperanza Ruiz Ríos, who is also the administrator of the municipality of San Juan; secretary Armando A. Valdés Prieto, who is a former employee of the Acevedo Vilá administration, former aide of Senator Eduardo Bhatia, as well as a political consultant and commentator; and director Zuleika Feliú Padilla, who is a CPA and works at the municipality’s Office of Internal Auditors.
According to the incorporation documents, Cruz is not part of the organization, but she appears in the Somebody Help Us webpage as a “spokesperson” for the entity.
At press time, the Press Office of the Municipality of San Juan had not responded to NotiCel’s request to interview the Mayor regarding these issues. No information has been offered as to the amount of money raised, who the donors are, nor the organization’s expenses. NotiCel has also reported on the lack of transparency in the First Lady’s disaster relief non-profit, United for Puerto Rico, as well as its ties to the Rosselló administration.
The tax provisions under which it was incorporated prohibit the organization from allocating
funds for political propaganda, partisan purposes, or lobbying efforts.
Somebody Help Us is a “municipal foundation dedicated to helping those who are most in need,” as explained in the website landing page through photographs and a brief presentation about the devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and the survivors’ need for assistance.
In its webpage, Somebody Help Us portrays itself as an entity created by the San Juan municipal office to help the capital’s citizens. In fact, the website is managed by the municipal office. The website states that the donations received will be used to install water purification systems, distribute water, food, and medications, provide assistance to people with special needs, and for construction materials. The site offers various options for citizens to donate online.
According to a video in the page, the organization has also helped the municipalities of San
Lorenzo, Dorado, Naranjito, Toa Baja, Canóvanas, Carolina, Aguas Buenas, Salinas, Carolina, Yabucoa, Isabela, Quebradillas, Caguas, Humacao, Morovis, and Guaynabo. The video claims the organization has helped 160 communities, over 166,000 people, and 65 geriatric homes.
It wasn’t until November 28 that the mayor of San Juan publicized the creation of this foundation, with the support of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito. This was done in response to the donations made by people in and outside the United States to the Municipality of San Juan to help its communities recover.
That night, Cruz Soto publicly spoke about the foundation during an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Afterwards, during her appearance in The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS), Cruz also encouraged US citizens to help.
The mayor said the foundation would help communities in their recovery efforts with the installation of water purification systems, medications, assistance to people with special needs, and construction materials for home repairs.
“To all the people in the United States and around the world who saw the impact of this hurricane on our Island and who are looking for a way to help us, we have created this Foundation, which was conceived as a way of building a legal framework for these donations we were already receiving from private individuals. Thank you, because each donation you sent proves that we are not alone in this fight"; Cruz said in a written statement.
“Quickly after that call went out, non-profit organizations, private companies, mayors, and private individuals from the United States started to send humanitarian and monetary aid tothe Municipality of San Juan,” the San Juan mayor pointed out during a public recognitionevent that was held in New York in late November for the NYC Emergency Management teams who worked in San Juan and the rest of the island.
“As soon as the news of the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria became widespread, we
began to receive money, sometimes stapled onto letters sent by citizens who felt the need to
help immediately. Those people trusted that we would get that help to San Juan and all of
Puerto Rico, and that is what we have done. All the money we have received, we deposited in
this Foundation, somebodyhelpusalguienayudenos.org, which was created because of those
individuals’ generosity," the mayor asserted.
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