By Elena Blanco, Summer Times Staff Writer
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Roselló has faced several crisis since he took office in January 2017, such as the economic crisis of the island, Hurricanes Irma and María and accusations of corruption and fraud within his cabinet. The most recent event is proving to be the biggest threat yet to Roselló: leaked private chats with his inner circle.
Last Thursday, July 11th, the non-profit journalism group Center of Investigative Journalism published 52 pages of conversations from a Telegram Chat. In these conversations, the governor used inappropriate language when referring to Melissa Mark-Viverito, an ex-councilwoman from New York City. The governor, who was on a flight back home from Europe when the chats were exposed, hosted a press conference that night and apologized for his behavior and expressions.
“I want to start off by apologizing for the expressions I made in a private chat,” Roselló said. “I am the governor of Puerto Rico, but I am also a human being with my faults and my virtues. I used that chat to release tensions, among other things, of 18 hour days. But of course, none of this justifies the words I have written.” He later continued to express how his intimacy and privacy was violated — and how he hopes no one has to go through that. He reiterated that there is a lot to be done on the island, and that he wouldn’t be resigning even though the island was already asking for it.
It was later known that there was a lot more to this chat, and on Saturday morning the 817 remaining pages were exposed. This part of the chat was much worse than the first few pages that were leaked. It included dark humor and sexist, misogynistic and homophobic comments from members of the group. It made Puerto Rican citizens even more furious. These conversations detailed efforts to manipulate public narratives, operations to discredit negative press coverage and criticism of opposition leaders.
The exposure of these conversations led to the resignation of 9 out of the 12 participants in the chat. Some who resigned were the Secretary of State, the Government Communications Advisor, and the governor’s representative before the Fiscal Supervision Board. But what made the people mad was that the governor; who wrote most of the inappropriate content in the chat, would not let go of his position. On Saturday night, hundreds showed up to La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion, to protest for his resignation.
The general public took their anger to social media, and messages began to circle social media, calling people to a march; which would protest for the governor’s resignation on Monday, July 15th from the Capitolio to La Fortaleza. Groups of people who have left the island due to the economic crisis, also called for marches and protests in New York, Boston, Barcelona and many other cities around the world. On Monday afternoon just a few hours before the protest, #RickyRenuncia (which translates to #RickyResign) was #2 on Twitter’s USA trending page and #14 Worldwide. Puerto Rico caught the eye of the world and became international news, and everything was just starting; in fact, it still is.
Protests are becoming bigger and bigger each time; people have taken their anger to the streets and on Monday night the protests turned violent — there were 21 police officers hurt and 5 people arrested. Police officers threw tear gas and pepper spray, to which protesters answered with a fire on the narrow street. On Tuesday morning, it was confirmed private properties suffered damages and both private and historical buildings were vandalized near the governor’s mansion. These news have affected the island; major cruise companies have cancelled stopovers in Puerto Rico out of disruption from the protests which have taken place in Old San Juan, where La Fortaleza is located.
While the governor insists he will not resign, the call for protests is only growing. More people are joining the bandwagon and even public figures are promoting bigger protests in the coming days. While the future is unpredictable, there is one thing we certainly know: the Puerto Rican community has proven to be united in these difficult times, and don’t plan on stopping to fight for their island anytime soon.