President Donald Trump has threatened to cut billions of dollars in aid to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico as he weighs his options for dealing with the island’s debt crisis.
Trump’s announcement came as he made an unscheduled visit to the island Thursday, where he said the island had been in financial trouble for years and needed help.
The president was joined by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
Mnuchin said the administration will announce the next steps after Puerto Rico’s recovery, but the island will face a $50 billion funding gap over the next five years.
Trump made the remarks on a conference call with Puerto Rican officials to discuss the island.
Puerto Rico is facing its biggest debt crisis since the island was battered by Hurricane Maria in late October.
Puerto Ricans are also struggling with the fallout of Hurricane Irma, which knocked out power and cellphone services and caused widespread flooding.
Puerto Rican Gov.
Ricardo Rosselló has said the government is on track to meet its debt obligations of $60 billion, but a federal judge has ordered that the island must repay the U:S.
government $50.7 billion.
Carmen Yulin Cruz has warned that Puerto Rico could face bankruptcy, unless Congress and the president help the island rebuild.
“They are going to have to make sacrifices.
They are going be faced with some very difficult decisions,” Cruz said at a news conference with Mnuchin and Gutierrez.
Trump also made his first direct threats against Puerto Rico, warning in a tweet on Thursday that the U,S.
“will not be treated with respect, nor will I tolerate this disrespect” from the U., which has historically been friendly toward the island and whose territory has a large number of Puerto Rican citizens.
“If the U wants the United States to pay for our disaster relief, it should start with the $5.7 trillion Puerto Rico needs and not the $4.9 trillion that they want,” he wrote.