- On Monday, Puerto Rico had what appeared to be one of its biggest protest ever. Hundreds of thousands of people took over one of the country’s largest highways to force Gov. Ricardo Rossello to resign.
- Rossello has come under fire due to corruption charges leveled against his administration, as well as the leaking of 889 pages of online conversations between him and nine of his aides.
- The messages are filled with misogynistic and homophobic obscenities, as well as a joke about hurricane victims. People are calling the scandal“Chatgate” or “Rickyleaks”.
- On July 21, Rosello announced via Facebook video he would not seek re-election, but he would not resign as leader. Instead of quelling the demonstrators, it seemed to have fired protesters up further.
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Puerto Ricans stormed the streets as they attempted to drive 40-year-old Gov. Ricardo Rossello from office.
On Monday, Puerto Rico had what appeared to be one of its biggest ever protests. Hundreds of thousands were expected to take over one of the country’s largest highways to force Rossello to resign. Reports indicate at least tens of thousands of people showed.
Rossello has come under fire due to corruption charges leveled against his administration, as well as the leaking of 889 pages of private messages between him and nine of his aides. The scandal — which has been dubbed “Chatgate” or “Rickyleaks” — includes obscenities directed at two female Puerto Rican politicians and at Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin. There was also a joke about dead bodies piling up after Hurricane Maria.
On July 21, Rosello announced via Facebook video he would not seek re-election, but he would not resign as leader. Instead of quelling the demonstrators, it seemed to have fired them up further.
Here’s how the protests came about and what happened in Puerto Rico on Monday.
On July 13, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published messages between Rosello and 11 of his aides. The homophobic, misogynistic, and profanity-laced messages discuss and insult former New York City council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, and singer Ricky Martin, among others.
Since then, hundreds of thousands protesters have taken to the streets. The mass demonstrations come after a culmination of factors.
Along with the governor’s vulgar chat messages, the island has been dealing with a 13-year recession, the suspected corruption of the current administration, and a nationwide struggle to recover, after a series of deadly hurricanes in 2017, which are estimated to have caused more than $100 billion worth of damage.
The protesters have been typically peaceful. Along with filling the streets with songs, there have been yoga protests and demonstrations on jet skis and horses.
But there has been a heavy police presence, and law enforcement have sometimes been aggressive in combating the protests, particularly on the nights of July 15 and 17.
Source: The Nation
Police used tear gas on some protesters, and there have been reports of rubber bullets being fired.
On July 17, in New York’s Union Square, protests took place in solidarity with Puerto Ricans. Protests have also happened in China, Holland, and Chile. Similar demonstrations are expected in major cities across the US mainland on Monday.
On the fifth day of demonstrations, a protester climbed a pole to remove the US flag.
Hurricane Maria is also remembered. The protester seen here has 4,645 written with special effects makeup on her forehead — one estimate for the number of people who were killed by the storm. This number has been controversial, because the island government originally identified only 64 victims. In August 2018, the government conceded that Hurricane Maria killed more than 2,975 people on the island, which many think was still an underestimate.
On July 21, Rosello admitted he was wrong and apologized for the messages. On Facebook Live, he said he was aware of the population’s dissatisfaction and discomfort, and while he would not run for re-election, he wasn’t standing down. “Only my work will help restore the trust of these sectors,” he said in the video.
But that wasn’t good enough for many Puerto Ricans. On July 22, one of the largest protests was held to force Rossello to step down. Organizers aimed for 1 million protesters.
Source: The New York Times
Reports haven’t confirmed how many people took to the streets, but it was at least in the tens of thousands.
Source: New York Times
The highways became overrun with protesters. Seen below is a flag that reads “enough” hung over a highway sign.
It wasn’t just a walking protest. Dancers performed, and at least one protester was riding down the highway on horseback.
Celebrities, including Puerto Rican rappers Residente and Bad Bunny, joined in on Monday.
US President Donald Trump weighed in on Rossello’s leadership. During a White House appearance, he accused the governor of being “corrupt and incompetent.” He said Washington was wary of sending aid to the island, precisely because of the administration. He also said he was the best thing to ever happen to Puerto Rico.
Source: The New York Times
Protesters haven’t yet succeeded in getting Rossello to step aside, but he did appear on Fox News in the afternoon and said he wanted to stay in office. “My commitment is to follow through on some of the efforts that I established for the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.
There’s been no official word yet whether protests will continue throughout the week, but it looks likely.