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Interview, News, Video   ⋄ October 2, 2017

When USA TODAY spotted actor and producer Benicio del Toro shortly after he arrived here in the Puerto Rican capital Saturday night, he agreed to answer a few questions. Here’s what he said, with minor editing:

USA TODAY: Why are you in Puerto Rico?

BDT: I came to visit my dad and my family. I haven’t talked to my father since the Hurricane hit on the 20th (until) we touched base three days ago. I also had a chance to meet with the Governor (Gov. Ricardo Rosselló) to talk about a project of the first lady (Beatriz Isabel Rosselló),

Look it up. (The First Lady’s initiative is a fundraising effort involving private enterprise and individuals to help Puerto Rican victims of hurricanes Irma and Maria.)

San Juan is my home town. I grew up here.

I love the people. I love the food. I live in California, … and like many people who live in mainland United States, we come back home, but there’s a difference.

If you’re a Puerto Rican who lives in Florida, you can vote for the president of the United States. If you live in Puerto Rico, you are an American citizen, but you’re not allowed to vote for a president. You’re not allowed to vote for a representative in Congress, … and that has to change.

USA TODAY: Is the recovery being politicized?

BDT: There were hurricanes that hit Houston and Florida, a major earthquake in Mexico, and then this huge hurricane hits Puerto Rico. There’s an element of the slowness had to do with that.

But the fact is there’s also — I can’t help think that the slowness has to do with the fact that Puerto Ricans don’t have the right to vote for a representative in Congress or the president of the United States.

And there’s finger pointing. (Del Toro was referring to the spat between President Trump and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz. On Saturday, Trump accused Yulin Cruz of “poor leadership” after she criticized the federal relief effort as too slow.)

Mayor Cruz was saying there’s people here suffering still. We’re starting this long journey of recuperating.

Don’t celebrate victory before the end of the game. But I think it’s going to be taken care of.

USA TODAY: What was your reaction when the hurricane hit?

BDT: I’m working on a show in upstate New York. I was watching the news.

Puerto Rico streets I grew up in were flooded with water. People were dying.

You start feeling a little bit of an itch. I’m in the middle of the shoot. I couldn’t help but to come down and show some support.

And it’s great. When you help, it’s a good feeling.

USA TODAY: How’d you feel about what you’ve seen so far?

BDT: There were hurricanes in the past but this one was completely epic. … How many times I’ve flown into San Juan: All you see is green.

Today everything is like mud. It looked like it had been burnt.

There’s this sense of sadness. There’s a little bit of hopelessness looking at it. That old tree is not there anymore.

USA TODAY: That tree?

BDT: There’s this old tree by Condado (a beachfront neighborhood in San Juan) that’s always been there, a landmark. Now half of it is gone.

It used to be all green. Now you see everything behind it.

It’s like an unmasking of memories. It’s like looking at old pictures before the tree was planted. – USA Today



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