Protests in Puerto Rico: An Avalanche in July
A publication of the private chat used by Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Roselló has detonated demonstrations throughout the island asking for his resignation.
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The protests that took over Old San Juan calling for Governor Ricardo Rossello’s resignation started small. A lone woman, standing along the route Rossello normally takes on his daily jog, held up a sign that read “Ricky Resign.” Soon, it would get loud. Finally - the people of Puerto Rico have had enough and are taking to the streets.
The internet exploded after the publication by the Center for Investigative Journalism of over 900 pages of texts of what has become known as #TelegramGate, named for the private chat used by the governor and his inner circle.
In it they disparaged, it seems, everyone in sight. 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. Even Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin!
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.
Martin, defending himself from being called a “Machista” by Rossello in the chat, politely asked him to step down because he was not fit to be governor.
After the leaking of the chats on Telegram - Rossello fired almost his entire inner circle, to no avail.
Just like a snowball that turns into a proverbial avalanche, everybody that is anybody in Puerto Rican culture jumped into the fray. Bad Bunny. Residente Calle 13 (nom de guerre of singer Rene Perez). Private sector CEO’s. Unions. Business Associations. Farmers.
Since last week, protests have been held, with music and slogans, in front of the Capitol building, in the Plazas of Old San Juan, in Escambron Beach, and in front of the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza. When asked why they were there, the protestors answered by listing a long set of grievances.
“He’s not my governor, he does not represent me,” said Carmen Alvarez, one of the protestors.
“This is what happens when you have unfettered capitalism and toxic neoliberalism in an abused colony,” Professor Fabio Torres said.
“Using the Spanish word for whore to describe a female political opponent is political violence!” Saheyla Rodriguez said.
The sentiment was crystallized by Janelle Santana Andino, President of the Hermandad de Empleados Exentos No Docentes (Brotherhood of Exempt Non-Teacher Employees of the University of Puerto Rico) when she said:
“We are consumed with rage and indignation, because it’s not enough to ask for forgiveness, when asking for it does not come from repentance, it comes from getting caught. We have lived under a pseudo-leader who in private showcases his lack of values, hatred, discrimination, mockery and violence towards our people. Violence that today has called us to respond, walk out to the sidewalks, the streets, halls and offices throughout the city, and especially in our University of Puerto Rico. We must unite and say “Enough” abuse and beatings. Today I march for a better future, for our dignity, for our retirement, for our youth, and for our country, because we DO NOT deserve what we have gotten.”
Several people had other opinions.
One man walking by the protest asked - “Why attack the governor? He wasn’t the one arrested!” in a Colombian accent. Or the bitter embarrassment expressed by Maria de Lourdes Rodriguez, a self-proclaimed pro-statehood voter:
“Rossello should not only resign, he should be prosecuted for malfeasance.”
One thing is obvious. There is an ever-expanding ring of opposition to the governor, his team, his arrested former officials, and the PNP party. And it is not clear how they will stem this avalanche.