Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) on Monday criticized President Trump, who said in an interview that he opposes granting the territory statehood while pointing to an “incompetent” mayor in San Juan.
“The President said he is not in favor of statehood for the people of Puerto Rico based on a personal feud with a local mayor. This is an insensitive, disrespectful comment to over 3 million Americans who live in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico,” said Rosselló in a statement.
In a pre-recorded interview with Geraldo Rivera aired on Cleveland’s WTAM radio earlier Monday, Trump said he’d remain against statehood for the territory while San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz remained in office.
“With the mayor of San Juan as bad as she is and as incompetent as she is, Puerto Rico shouldn’t be talking about statehood until they get some people that really know what they’re doing,” said Trump.
Cruz and Trump have feuded over the federal response to Hurricane Maria since shortly after the deadly storm struck in September of 2017.
Cruz, whose Popular Democratic Party opposes statehood, responded to Trump’s latest comments over Twitter.
“Trump once again accuses me of telling the truth. Now he says statehood won’t arrive because of me,” she tweeted.
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-P.R.), a staunch supporter of statehood, also weighed in on Twitter.
“Equality 4 Puerto Ricans shouldn’t be held up by one bad mayor who’s leaving office in 2020 & do not represent the people who voted twice for statehood. In 2012 61%, and 97% in 2017. Equality & statehood are much bigger than any lousy & temporary politician. Equality transcends,” said González.
Trump’s comments on Rivera’s show escalated a budding public disagreement between the president and Rosselló, who has at times taken internal criticism rather than publicly rebuke Trump.
“How can the United States make the case for democracy at the United Nations this week, when they have under their flag the most populous colony in the world? I urge all political leaders in the nation to define their views towards our quest for equal treatment for the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico,” said Rosselló in his statement, in reference to the ongoing United Nations General Assembly, which Trump will address in New York on Tuesday.
Trump and Rosselló last week disagreed publicly over the official death count of hurricanes Irma and Maria, which a George Washington University study estimated at 2,975.
In a letter to Trump commemorating the anniversary of Maria, Rosselló asked the president to consider moving forward the cause of statehood for the island.
In his letter, Rosselló appealed to Trump’s leadership, saying “statehood for Puerto Rico is not only about realizing Puerto Rico’s full potential. It is about America living up to its most noble values by creating a more perfect Union.”
Although Puerto Rican statehood is part of the Republican Party platform, and Trump campaigned as a supporter of the idea, it has met cool reception in Washington for decades.
“While a Presidential candidate, Trump said that the will of the Puerto Rican people in any status referendum should be considered as Congress follows through on any desired change in status for Puerto Rico, including statehood,” read Rosselló’s Monday statement.
In June, Trump joked to Rosselló that he would consider statehood if Puerto Rico could guarantee it would elect two Republican senators.
Still, Trump’s position — as stated to Rivera — has moved away from statehood.
“With people like that involved in Puerto Rico, I would be an absolute no,” said Trump.