The wife of Puerto Rico’s governor drew ire for sending candles as gifts to mayors of several regions, including Yabucoa, where nearly 90% of the population is still without power five months after Hurricane Maria.
Beatriz Rossello, who is married to governor Ricardo Rossello, said she intended to lift spirits through a message of “union and hope.” But some saw the holiday gifts — sent in December and early January — as insensitive.
“I’m very sorry that the gift was misinterpreted,” she said, Primera Hora reported.
Rossello said she sent scented candles made by Puerto Rican women to the mayors of different regions across Puerto Rico. It was unclear how many government officials received the gifts.
The candles were accompanied by wooden Christmas ornaments made by inmates who whittled them from a tree toppled by Hurricane Irma.
“May this piece represent the transformation and resilience of the people of Puerto Rico,” a message sent with the gift read.
But the mayor of Yabucoa, Rafael Surillo Ruiz—whose municipality still remains in the dark— took issue with the first lady’s gift.
“We received this little gift from the Governor’s mansion. A gift that I don’t know if they sent to other mayors, and maybe other mayors received it and didn’t feel any emotion," Surillo Ruiz told Primera Hora. “In my particular case, I feel an indignation, that those who sent this gift are those who could have come first to our town and lent us a hand to help families in this town,” he said.
The governor’s press secretary Ramon Rosario fired back at the criticism.
“If you don’t like the candle, send it back,” he said, Metro PR reported.
Governor Ricardo Rossello acused Surillo Ruiz of “politicizing the issue,” Metro PR reported.
Surillo Ruiz said not a single representative from the governor’s office has visited his region since Maria devastated the island.