Tensions Mount Between President Trump and Puerto Rican Governor Over Hurricane Maria Relief

March 28, 2019, 8:16 PM UTC

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló said the Trump administration is refusing to schedule a meeting with the president to discuss Hurricane Maria relief, adding that he’s tired of his officials being pushed around.

“If the bully gets close, I’ll punch the bully in the mouth,” Rosselló told CNN Thursday. “It would be a mistake to confuse courtesy with courage.”

While President Donald Trump argues too much aid is being sent to Puerto Rico, the island continues to suffer from wounds inflicted by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The disaster killed approximately 3,000 people and left the island’s infrastructure in ruins.

Moreover, a University of Michigan study found the federal response to hurricanes Harvey and Irma on the continental U.S. was “faster and more generous” than the response to Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico. The study says survivors of Harvey and Irma had received nearly $100 million in federal funds nine days after the hurricanes hit land, while Maria survivors had gotten just over $6 million in this time frame.

According to Bloomberg, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent billions to help the island recover, but there’s been a delay for funds specifically for infrastructure restoration.

“I just think we have to end this battle of words and just recognize we’re not his political adversaries, we’re his citizens,” Rosselló said, adding that the president treats Puerto Ricans as “second class citizens.”

The White House, however, argues that the administration is cooperating.

“The Trump administration is committed to the complete recovery of Puerto Rico. The island has received unprecedented support and is on pace to receive tens of billions of dollars from taxpayers,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement, according to CNN.

“However, the Trump administration will not put taxpayers on the hook to correct a decades old spending crisis that has left the island with deep-rooted economic problems,” the statement continued.

Trump has long argued without evidence that Puerto Rico is using hurricane relief funds to pay off debts.

“I just want the opportunity to explain to him why the data and information he’s getting is wrong. I don’t think getting into a kicking and screaming match with the President does any good,” Rosselló told CNN. “What I am aiming to do is make sure reason prevails, that empathy prevails, that equality prevails, and that we can have a discussion.”