Thousands protest in San Juan to oust Governor Ricardo Roselló
In a historic people’s march, at least 100, 000 protestors took back the streets of Old San Juan, demanded the ouster of Governor Ricardo Rosselló.
In a historic people’s march, at least 100, 000 protestors took back the streets of Old San Juan, demanded the ouster of Governor Ricardo Rossello, and delivered its message loud and clear - Puerto Rico is fed up and will not take it anymore.
Yet Rossello, defiant and tone-deaf, refuses to step down.
“Ricky resign,” “We are the people and we demand respect,” and “We are more and we are not afraid” were some of the slogans chanted by the mass of protestors as they waved flags, carried placards and swayed to the sound of drums, inching shoulder to shoulder through the narrow streets of the Old City to La Fortaleza, Rossello’s executive mansion.
The march, headed by Puerto Rican artists Bad Bunny, Residente and Ricky Martin, among others, was, for the most part, peaceful. But, late at night, the police and protestors clashed, as volleys of teargas and rubber bullets dispersed the massive crowd.
— AL DÍA News (@ALDIANews) July 18, 2019
The internet exploded after the publication of over 900 pages of texts of what has become known as #TelegramGate, named for the private chat used by Rossello and his inner circle.
In it, they disparaged everyone in sight, including San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, former speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito, who Rossello called a “Puta,” whore in English, Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin and even obese campaign workers, the dead and the poor.
This debacle comes after the arrest of two former Puerto Rican government officials and four other top-tier members as part of a federal corruption probe that shook the Rossello administration.
After the leaking of the chats - or RickyLeaks - Rossello fired almost his entire inner circle, to no avail.
And even more stupefying - after last night - Rossello refuses to budge.
“The demonstrations that took place [Wednesday] afternoon and evening have not gone unnoticed by me, my family or certainly the people of Puerto Rico. It was a broad participation that I respect, not only as a democratic exercise, but as a natural manifestation of the anger at recent events,” he said.
“Many people did it properly, the vast majority. Others chose the wrong methods and violence, even with the use of weapons, Molotov cocktails and other explosives, causing injuries and impacting officers of the Puerto Rico Police. This challenge to law and order will be addressed accordingly,” he added.
But - he pleaded for reconciliation. The Puerto Rican people are clearly in no mood for that.
“In the past few days I have asked for forgiveness, personally, to the Puerto Rican people and that request remains. I am committed, more strongly than ever, to carry out the public policy for which we have worked so hard in all areas of government. I recognize the challenges ahead due to the recent controversy, but I firmly believe it is possible to restore confidence and that we can, after this painful and regrettable process, achieve reconciliation.”
Marching alongside thousands of people, I had never seen this Puerto Rico - indignant and united against the widespread corruption. The excitement and resolve were profound, almost tangible. Puerto Rico’s youth, the traditionally indifferent Millennials, woke up and were there in throngs. Women, the handicapped, religious groups, the LGBTTQ+ community, politicians - representing all Puerto Ricans - were present on this hot and historic day.
“We are fed up and we are not going to take it anymore,” shouted Doña Cruz, a tiny and frail-looking octogenarian, whose otherwise strong voice reassured and encouraged the timid “first-timers” around her.
As a woman, a Puerto Rican woman who has fought against injustice most of my life, I was energized by Doña Cruz and to see the many women of all ages and walks of life that were present, not only repudiate the government, but assert that, as the largest group on the Island - women are the main economic, political and social force in Puerto Rico.
The mantra is that we will not be disregarded by a misogynist Rossello and his Frat Boys club. This ends now.
This was voiced by two professional women - Marketing Director Aileen Vidal and Dr. Lissette Morales-Ferrer - both in their forties, who explained the reasons why they were protesting.
“We cannot allow this government to continue, he has proven to be not only corrupt but lacking sensibility to the most vulnerable,” Vidal said.
Dr. Morales added: “We will continue to participate in these marches as long as it is necessary, the damage to our people and our country by this governor and his incompetent advisers is immeasurable. We are decent hard-working people who deserve better.”
As I tried to walk through the crowds of the young, and the not so young, I met with Senator Rossana López León- candidate for Mayor of San Juan - who has been a vocal figure against the Rossello administration.
“I have joined this march that demands the resignation of the Governor. Rossello has no power now, the power is with our people, we are active in the streets and we will continue doing so until he and his government resign. He and his team have disrespected our people, and that cannot be tolerated,” she said.
Until Rossello leaves, or is forced out, we will continue to hear the drums of war in Puerto Rico, and in cities around the world, where Puerto Ricans are following this process with keen interest and a loud voice.