Rosselló Nevares avoided criticizing the American President. (horizontal-x3)
Rosselló Nevares avoided criticizing the American President. (Gerald López Cepero)

For Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, since Monday, the advance of Puerto Rico´s statehood depends on President Donald Trump leaving the White House or on the political pressure of the so-called diaspora, an alternative that local politicians have tried in recent years without major results.

Rosselló Nevares had already criticized Trump's rejection to Puerto Rico´s statehood due to the poor quality of the island´s politicians. He called them "insensitive and disrespectful". A few weeks ago, Trump described the Puerto Rican government as one of the most corrupt in the United States.

Even so, Rosselló Nevares avoided criticizing the American President. On the other hand, he said that the operation of federal agencies on the island shows mixed results. He mentioned progress with the US Departments of the Treasury and Housing and failures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The Governor also suggested that he prefers to avoid confrontations so that the programs that are being implemented with federal funds continue and the areas that show obstacles can be corrected.

"The truth is that I have to establish a relationship with them to ensure that everything that is going on correctly continues and what is going wrong finds a way to be improved," said Rosselló Nevares in an interview with El Nuevo Día.

When you won the 2016 elections, you said that you would be the last governor of the colony and the first one under statehood. Do you think the same after Trump's expressions?

— I totally reject the President's expressions. Trying to link what is a fight for civil and democratic rights with a difference on a 'subpar' work done by the mayor of San Juan (Carmen Yulín Cruz, mentioned by Trump), seems inappropriate and I'm not going to accept it.

What the President said yesterday represented a public policy against statehood.

— When he was a candidate, the previous public policy would support a self-determination process for Puerto Rico, and would solve the status issue, with any viable alternative, including statehood. This calls for the President to answer about what his proposal as a candidate is and what he said on the radio.

Trump also said that the government of Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt ones. How do you see the White House and its performance?

— Here, people typically expect someone to say that something was great or was horrible. I think we are somewhat in that world. I decided to choose another position and identify the good and bad things.

Congress legislated a $4 billion loan for Puerto Rico that was not disbursed, you talk about FEMA bureaucracy, you mention the slow federal response to Puerto Rico because it is an island and the total of the $ 40 billion funds allocated for the emergency, only 13 percent was released. Don´t you see a pattern there?

— I have to assume that all the agencies respond to White House. There are different behaviors about this. Therefore, I call for everything to align.

Isn´t there a (President´s) public policy behind this?

— How do you explain, then, the advanced disbursement of CDBG funds, with programs that help Puerto Rico and the "opportunity zones" for the whole island. I validate the position that a number of things have been delayed, but saying that it is something coordinated, when I see entities such as the Treasury, HUD and Federal Highway (Administration), which is another agency that has worked very well with Puerto Rico ...

The disbursement of the first CDBG funds took more than a year and the bureaucratic process for the second one is barely starting.

— CDBG funds are supposed to start operating and reach the affected jurisdiction, two or three years after the devastation.

You perceive mixed performances...

— I would give an "F" to the Corps of Engineers and an "A" to HUD (Housing and Urban Development). Everything else is in between.

And the White House?

— It would be easy for me to say that this person is great or this person is the most horrible one. The certain thing is that I have to establish a relationship with them to assure that everything is going well continues and what is going bad has a way to improve. I have worked in that direction. I have no objections about saying what is wrong. But there are mixed signals.

In the case of statehood, how would you do to change public policy against annexation?

— One way is for the President to change his position ... Other way is through elections. Mid-term elections are coming and I will be involved to make sure that those candidates who watch over Puerto Rico´s best interest are elected and the rest are rejected.


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