ORLANDO, FLA.—Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló reached his breaking point three months after Hurricane Maria laid waste to the U.S. territory on Sept. 20, wrecking its power grid, damaging most of its dwellings and triggering a mass exodus of residents to the U.S. mainland.
Still in his first year in office, Rosselló had already seen his share of daunting challenges by the time Maria made landfall as a Category 4 storm. He inherited a massive debt crisis and, fewer than two weeks earlier, had watched Hurricane Irma knock out power to millions. The second storm that month proved even more powerful, and suddenly Rosselló found himself thrust into cringe-worthy photo ops with President Trump, including an Oct. 19 Oval Office meeting during which the president gave his own administration a perfect 10 for its underwhelming relief efforts, then urged the reluctant governor to publicly do the same.
It wasn’t until Dec. 19, however, that Rosselló fully realized that securing Puerto Rico’s future meant he would have to get involved in mainland politics in a way that no other governor had before him. Though he had spent weeks explaining to members of Congress why stripping tax breaks from manufacturers operating in Puerto Rico would deal the island a “crippling blow,” his pleas ultimately fell on deaf ears as Republicans looked to give Trump his first substantive legislative victory and passed a tax reform bill that did just that.
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