President Donald Trump ripped the Puerto Rican government on Monday, calling its leadership “corrupt” and “incompetent” as tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets demanding Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation.
“He’s a terrible governor,” President Trump replied when asked in the Oval Office about the ongoing protests plaguing Puerto Rico. “I think you have an even worse mayor of San Juan; she’s horrible,” the president continued, referring to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 22, 2019
President Trump then expressed concern over the handling of the billions of dollars in aid that Congress approved to help rebuild the island following Hurricane Maria in 2017. “The United States Congress … gave Puerto Rico $92 billion last year for hurricane relief,” the president explained. “That $92 billion dollars is in the hands of incompetent, corrupt people.”
Waving flags, chanting, and banging pots and pans, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans jammed a highway Monday to demand the resignation of Rosselló in a crisis triggered by the leak of offensive, obscenity-laden chat messages between him and his advisers.
The demonstration appeared to the biggest protest on the island in nearly two decades.
The protest came ten days after the leak of 889 pages of online chats in which Rosselló and some of his close aides insulted women and mocked constituents, including victims of Hurricane Maria.
The leak has intensified long-smoldering anger in the U.S. territory over persistent corruption and mismanagement by the island’s two main political parties, a severe debt crisis, a sickly economy, and a slow recovery from Maria.
Rosselló‘s secretary of public affairs, Anthony Maceira, said Monday morning he did not know Rosselló‘s whereabouts. Asked who was advising Rosselló on staying in office, Maceira said the governor was speaking with his family, and “that carries a great weight.”
On Sunday, Rosselló announced he will not seek re-election in 2020 and will resign as the leader of his party.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.