Puerto Rico’s first lady apologizes for sending candles

February 7, 2018

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The wife of Puerto Rico’s governor apologized on Wednesday for sending candles to people on an island where more than 400,000 power customers remain in the dark five months after Hurricane Maria.

Beatriz Rossello said she just wanted to send a message of unity and hope.

“I’m very sorry that the gift was misinterpreted,” she said.

The candles were accompanied by a wooden Christmas ornament made by inmates who created them from pieces of a century-old tree that the Category 4 storm toppled at the governor’s mansion on Sept 20. The gift was accompanied by a message saying, “May this piece represent the transformation and resilience of the people of Puerto Rico.”

Yabucoa Mayor Rafael Surillo told The Associated Press that he received one of the candles last week and felt it was in poor taste. The southern coastal town of 38,000 people that he represents was the first one hit by Hurricane Maria, and only about 12 percent of people there have power.

“I don’t understand the point of such a gift,” he said, adding that its arrival was incredibly untimely.

Surillo, who is from the main opposition party, said that neither Rossello nor her husband, Gov. Ricardo Rossello, have visited Yabucoa.

“We’ll receive them with open arms,” he said. “We demand that they pay attention to the most devastated town.”

It’s unclear how many people received the candles. Beatriz Rossello said they were sent out in December and January but did not provide further details.

A Rossello spokeswoman did not respond to a message for comment.

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