Ricardo Rossello speaks to President Donald Trump during a lunch with governors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House (horizontal-x3)
Ricardo Rossello speaks to President Donald Trump during a lunch with governors in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. (AP)

Washington - Yesterday, when Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares raised the statehood issue for Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump asked him -with the humorous tone he occasionally uses- if he could guarantee that the island’s voters were going to elect federal Republican senators, because if that were the case, that could happen "very quickly".

"We do not want to be a territory anymore. We want to be a state. I think this is a great legacy that your administration could pursue... Using your words, we want to make America great again. I think we can make it greater," said Rosselló at Trump’s working lunch with eight governors, in the Roosevelt room at the White House, where Vice President Michael Pence was also present.

After the Governor's comment, Trump pointed out, looking at the rest of the group at the table -all Republicans except Rosselló- that "Ricardo is going to guarantee us two Republican senators."

"Is that incorrect?," asked the US President, provoking laughter. Trump added that then it might be a very quick process.

Rosselló -who is  close to the US Democrats- reacted to Trump's words by saying that Puerto Rico would be a state that could swing between supporting Democrats and Republicans ("battleground state.") 

At the same time, Trump said yesterday that Rosselló took advantage of Hurricane Maria to obtain federal funds that helped him to reconstruct a power grid that was "virtually useless and in bankruptcy."

In an attempt to praise him, Trump assured that Governor Rosselló "was very brilliant", because "he blamed the hurricane for destroying the power plant." But he said that he  respects and appreciates Rossello. He introduced him as "the Governor of Puerto Rico", exaggerating the Spanish pronunciation of the name of the island.

Governor Rosselló also told him that this week he signed the law that will allow the sale of assets of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and reiterated that Trump has answered to all his calls for assistance.

Trump's conversation with the Governors focused on the fight against opioid abuse, according to a release from La Fortaleza. 

Rosselló arrived in Washingtonn D.C. on Wednesday evening to attend that meeting -which he did not announce in advance- and participate in the SelectUSA Investment Summit, which takes place at the National Harbor, in Maryland, on the border with the US capital.

At a previous meeting, on October 20, 2017, President Trump avoided talking about statehood when a reporter asked him about the statehood debate. "You will get me into trouble," he said then.

In Puerto Rico, in a two to one ratio, more voters tend to support Democratic candidates than Republicans. Currently, Republicans have a slight 51-49 majority in the US Senate.

"I think Republicans, at least, are going to think about that," told Republican Congressman Steve Chabot (Ohio) to El Nuevo Día in 2017, referring to Puerto Ricans in the United States. In the presidential primaries on the island, they are usually overwhelmingly identified in favor of Democrats.

Back then, Chabot mentioned the possibility of five states losing representation if Congress refused to increase from 435 to 440 the total of seats in the Lower House, in order to make room for the five 'congress members' of the island.

The other governors at the meeting were those from Idaho, Butch Otter; Indiana, Eric Holcomb; Kentucky, Matt Bevin; Missouri, Mike Parson; Oklahoma, Mary Fallin; Utah, Gary Herbert; and Wisconsin, Scott Walker.

Rosselló also met with Admiral Doug Fears, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counterterrorism Adviser on the National Security Council, to discuss the recovery of the island.


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