Politics

Trump slams Puerto Rico leaders: ‘Under siege,’ ‘despicable’

People took part in a demonstration demanding Governor Ricardo Rossello's resignation in San Juan.
ERIC ROJAS/AFP/Getty Images
People took part in a demonstration demanding Governor Ricardo Rossello's resignation in San Juan.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — President Donald Trump weighed in on the upheaval in crisis-stricken Puerto Rico on Thursday, tweeting harsh words for the territory’s leadership a day after thousands protested to demand the governor resign over leaked chats showing him making misogynistic slurs and mocking constituents.

‘‘A lot of bad things are happening in Puerto Rico,’’ Trump tweeted, adding that ‘‘The Governor is under siege’’ and deriding San Juan Mayor Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, a frequent critic of the president, as ‘‘a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance.’’

He alleged that much of relief funds approved by Congress after 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria ‘‘was squandered away or wasted, never to be seen again,’’ and said ‘‘much of (Puerto Rico’s) leadership is corrupt, & robbing the U.S. Government blind!’’

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Meanwhile, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló issued a statement saying he respects Wednesday’s demonstration as a ‘‘democratic exercise’’ and ‘‘a natural manifestation of bitterness over recent events,’’ but would not resign.

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‘‘I firmly believe it’s possible to restore confidence,’’ Rosselló said, adding that he has asked and continues to ask for islanders’ forgiveness.

The U.S. island territory is struggling to emerge from a debt-driven financial failure and a recession that’s over a decade old. It also seeks more federal aid to recover from Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and from a months-long failure to provide care to the elderly and medically vulnerable.

Some of Puerto Rico’s best-known celebrities — performers Ricky Martin, Residente and Bad Bunny — joined Wednesday’s march of thousands through San Juan, the capital, some waving Puerto Rican flags printed in black and gray instead of the usual red, white and blue to express their discontent.

Many in Puerto Rico are angry over what they see as neglect by Washington and their own government.

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Outrage erupted after Rosselló’s former secretary of education and five other people were arrested on charges of steering federal money to unqualified, politically connected contractors.

Since Hurricane Maria, hundreds of schools have been closed to save money and a wide range of social services and pensions are being cut back, or are under threat.

Prominent Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland such as Lin-Manuel Miranda of ‘‘Hamilton’’ fame and Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora joined the chorus of voices calling call for Rosselló’s resignation.

‘‘I am committed, more than ever, to carrying out the public policy for which we have worked so much in all areas of government,’’ Rosselló said in his statement. ‘‘I recognize the challenges I have before me due to the recent controversies, but I believe firmly that it is possible to restore confidence and that we can, after this painful and grievous process, achieve reconciliation.’’

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Associated Press writer Peter Orsi contributed from Mexico City.

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Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein