As hundreds of thousands gathered in the streets of San Juan to call for the removal of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, President Donald Trump launched harsh verbal attacks on Puerto Rican officials.
Puerto Rico’s governor has refused to leave office after leaked messages revealed he and other government officials privately insulted women, people with disabilities and victims of Hurricane Maria. Trump told reporters on Monday that the governor and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz were “grossly incompetent.”
While Cruz is not implicated in the governor’s scandal, she earned the president’s ire as one of his major critics in the wake of the 2017 hurricane. Cruz called Trump’s initial failure to stem the island’s loss of life — one analysis estimated the hurricane killed 2,975 people — “a violation of human rights.” In return, the president said he would not support Puerto Rican statehood if she continued to hold office.
On Monday, Trump continued his attack, saying Cruz was “so bad for her people” and claiming she mishandled funds allocated to the island by Congress.
In attacking the two figures, Trump falsely stated that Congress “gave Puerto Rico $92 billion last year” as evidence of their incompetence.
This is not the first time he has cited such a large and inaccurate number. In May, The Washington Post reported that the island had been allocated less than half of that, and that the president’s number seemed to be a projection for spending over the next 20 years.
Trump later claimed to be “the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico,” citing a number of bizarre reasons while trying to justify the statement.
“They don’t like to give me the credit for it, but we did a great job [in Puerto Rico],” he said. “I have many Puerto Rican friends. I have a real understanding of Puerto Rico. I’ve had jobs in Puerto Rico.”
Trump did not delve into specifics of the “great job” he believed his administration had accomplished, but did refer to what he saw as a “tremendous” success that occurred before his presidency began.
“I own the Miss Universe contest and we had them in Puerto Rico, twice. And I’ll tell you, we had tremendous successes,” the president said. “In fact, they said literally 100% — this never happens — almost, I think it was close to 100, but 100% of the island itself was watching. They like those pageants.”
“Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being, and I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it,” he said in March.