President Donald Trump has been critical of the Democrat-led government of Puerto Rico in the wake of the devastating back-to-back hurricanes in 2017, calling the island’s leadership corrupt and incompetent in how they have handled the recovery efforts.
Unsurprisingly, Trump’s detractors screeched that he was being racist toward Puerto Ricans, but the president’s critiques now appear to have been justified as the FBI has made a number of arrests as part of an investigation into the alleged governmental corruption. Two former senior officials in the Puerto Rican government were arrested on Wednesday, and now many are calling for the island’s governor to resign.
“The arrests also spurred concerns on Capitol Hill about the billions of dollars in aid that Congress has approved for the island,” reported The Washington Post.
Corruption and fraud
The indictments of the arrested former officials laid out allegations of how they and others had illegally diverted federal recovery funds to politically-connected contractors and friends.
Six people were arrested in connection with the 32-count indictment, most notably former Education Secretary Julia Keleher and former executive director of Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration, Angela Avila-Marrero, both of whom resigned in April and June, respectively.
U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez said in a statement, “Keleher and Avila-Marrero exploited their government positions and fraudulently awarded contracts funded with federal monies.”
“The charged offenses are reprehensible, more so in light of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis,” the federal prosecutor added.
Gov. Rossello being urged to resign
Prosecutors made it clear that, despite members of his administration being swept up in the federal corruption investigation, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello was not involved in the investigation and is not currently being investigated with regard to the corruption.
However, there are growing calls for Rossello to resign from his position, including from Democrats in Congress, such as Democratic Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, who serves as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee that has oversight jurisdiction over the U.S. territory.
“We’ve crossed that crucible now,” Grijalva told The Post. “The restoration of accountability is so key going forward.”
On Twitter, Grijalva reiterated his message that Rossello should resign via his committee’s official account, and wrote that it was time for him “to step down given multiple arrests in a corruption probe.”
CHair @RepRaulGrijalva is calling for Gov. Rossello of Puerto Rico to step down given multiple arrests in a corruption probe. The @washingtonpost story is accurate, despite some confusion. https://t.co/sVAwGRGlvs
— Natural Resources Committee (@NRDems) July 10, 2019
Rossello is also facing growing criticism and calls for his resignation over recently published text messages that included “sexist, homophobic and other distasteful language to insult women and political opponents,” NPR reported.
900 pages worth of text messages were published by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism last week, sparking protests in the streets. But so far, Rossello says he will not resign.