Puerto Rico Governor warns over ‘bully’ White House
San Juan: Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said he would not sit back and allow his officials to be “bullied” by the White House as tensions escalated between him and US President Donald Trump over slow disaster relief efforts.
In an exclusive interview with CNN, Rossello said: “If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth… It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.”
Rossello’s top aides told CNN that during a tense encounter at the White House on Wednesday they were warned by senior administration officials that representatives for the US territory were pushing too hard to arrange a meeting aimed at discussing the island’s dire situation with the President.
Despite their requests, Trump has declined to schedule a meeting with Rossello to discuss recovery efforts that are ongoing nearly two years after Hurricane Maria hit the island.
According to Puerto Rican officials, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, along with other senior officials, all but threatened the island’s representatives during the meeting.
In response to the allegations, a White House spokesman said the administration would continue working with Rossello and his aides on recovery efforts. But he stopped short of saying definitively the President would meet with the governor in the future.
Trump claimed on Thursday he has “taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man, ever”, rebutting claims he’s ignored the island’s plight after Hurricane Maria.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto responded saying Trump’s comments were a reminder that he “cannot lead”.
Besides Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, also devastated Dominica and the US Virgin Islands in September 2017. A total of 3,057 people were killed.