Groundbreaking Protests in Puerto Rico Take Aim Beyond Governor
Puerto Ricans stormed the capital of San Juan on Monday, with hundreds of thousands of protesters marching down a major highway, chanting “Ricky Renuncia”—a call for the governor, Ricardo Rosselló, a member of the island’s New Progressive Party, to resign. NBC calls it “The island’s largest protest in recent history.” The Washington Post suggests the island-wide strike “could represent the largest mobilization in the history of Puerto Rico,” since it became a U.S. colony in 1898.
The massive action is the 12th day of protests against Rosselló, which CNN explains were set off by a series of almost 900 leaked chat transcripts between Gov. Rosselló and close associates that featured misogynistic, homophobic, language. The chat logs, as Angel Rosa, a political science professor at the University of Puerto Rico, explained to CNN, “offended almost every group on the island.”
Although the chat logs scandal and the arrest of Rosselló’s former secretary of education for corruption were key catalysts for the protests, participants say deeper problems have plagued Puerto Rico’s government for years. The most pressing problem is the island’s economy, including a lack of opportunity for young people and a debt crisis, the slow recovery from Hurricane Maria and complaints over an unelected oversight board dedicated to managing the island’s finances, which protesters feel is too sympathetic to Rosselló.
“I am fed up with the thieving government,” Maristella Gross, a protester in San Juan, told CNN. “I have never participated in a protest before,” Ramos Grateroles, 71, a retired defense attorney, told the Post, adding, “But enough is enough. Rosselló has disrespected the people of Puerto Rico, and if we don’t come together and demand it, he won’t leave.”
Rosselló posted Sunday on Facebook that he would not run for reelection in 2020, but he refused to heed calls to step down. He’s also not speaking much to the press. As reporter Claudia Irizzary Aponte tweeted Monday:
Gov. Rosselló hasn’t addressed local reporters or hosted a press conference since last Tuesday. His message last night was broadcast live on his Facebook page. But here he is about to go live on Fox News… https://t.co/a0ODX1K1KB
— claudia irizarry aponte (@clauirizarry) July 22, 2019
NBC reports that the president of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, Carlos Méndez Núñez, who is from the same party as Rosselló, “was expected to receive a report from three appointed lawyers in the coming days, outlining whether an impeachment process can be initiated.” They’re investigating whether any of the information in the chats reveals conflicts of interest or law violations.
Celebrities and U.S. politicians have joined the chorus demanding Roselló’s resignation. Singer Ricky Martin, one target of the chats, participated in Monday’s march. NBC reports that additional celebrities, including former MLB baseball player Carlos Delgado and the musicians Bad Bunny, Tommy Torres, Kany García and Olga Tañón, plan to join.
— Nancy Santiago (@nancysnegron) July 22, 2019
Melissa Mark-Viverito, former New York City Council speaker and interim president of Latino Victory, which promotes Latinos for higher office, said in an interview with Telemundo Puerto Rico (as translated from Spanish to English by NBC) that the current political situation is “not sustainable,” and, “I can’t imagine a scenario where the governor can go knock on Washington’s door and effectively move any agenda for Puerto Rico forward.”Wait, before you go…
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