Trump Doubts Statehood for Puerto Rico, Carmen Yulín's Leadership Skills, and Hurricane Maria's Death Toll

On September 23rd, the POTUS made yet another statement denying the possibility of Puerto Rico becoming a state due to its bad leadership, by which he refers specifically to the mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz. During a podcast called Geraldo in Cleveland, Trump said the following about Yulín to Fox reporter Geraldo Rivera: “I will tell you this, 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.”

Trump claims that Puerto Rico's leadership had an inefficient response during the hurricane and that the main problem begins with the fact that Cruz was elected mayor in the capital city of Puerto Rico. He also called her a “horror show” (according to Huffington Post) and an obstacle for Puerto Rico’s statehood. The last two referendums concerning the island’s legal status, despite a low turnout of voters that did not reach 50% of the population, reflected a desire for statehood. Despite all odds, Trump does not foresee statehood as a viable option for Puerto Rico under its current leadership, but under a different administration, it could be “something to talk about.”

On another note, the president also denied the reported death toll of Hurricane Maria (according to NY Times) and went on to refer himself to the initially reported deaths that started at 16 and then bumped up to 64. Of course, both death tolls did not take into account the deaths that the hurricane indirectly provoked and all of the deaths that weren't immediately reported due to lack of an accessible communications grid. El Nuevo Día reported, a week after María ravaged the island, that a hospital's morgue in Aguadilla had too many bodies and that, given the conditions at the time, the hospital was about to collapse, according to Arturo Cedeño, the medical director at Buen Samaritano Hospital. It's likely that many other places around the island had to harbor bodies and, like the hospital, endure the horrid conditions that were provoked by a lack of electricity and water.

Trump, however, denies that FEMA's response was ineffective in the grand scheme of things. He even went as far to say that he never received gratitude for it, and instead got “bad press.” Carmen Yulín responded to him on Twitter by claiming that he only attacks her because she’s speaking the truth. The current Mayor of San Juan has been very vocal about her disdain of Trump ever since FEMA’s delayed aid during the aftermath of Hurricane María. The two have constantly disputed and made inflammatory remarks about each other in the media in the year that followed.

Almost a year ago, when President Trump posted the infamous tweet which prompted a response from Yulín where she wore a shirt that read ''nasty.''

Regardless of Trump's affirmation or his disdain towards Mayor Cruz, he follows in the vein of many other political figures who have vaguely claimed to be for statehood while categorizing it as a pipe dream. Although I disagree with the idea that statehood is a matter of civil rights, as claimed by Governor Ricardo Rosselló, I do believe that having the right to choose the way a society is organized and distributes its resources is a matter of civil rights, and on that note, I consider that there could be better alternatives to develop a prosperous, socially aware, inclusive, and culturally independent nation. However, many believe that statehood is a way of achieving these ideals. Neither of these options are even worthwhile if the right of choice is somehow included, respected, and legally recognized. If anything, that should be a matter of civil and human rights.