Police gassed protesters calling for the resignation of Puerto Rico’s governor. Here’s how we got here
Police gassed some protesters calling for the resignation of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló amid the scandal surrounding leaked chats from his inner circle Monday night.
Protests have been happening for days following the release of nearly 900 pages from the governor’s private group chat obtained by The Center for Investigative Journalism and published via Telegram.
The leaks came the same week two former officials from Rosselló’s administration were arrested by the FBI as part of a federal corruption investigation.
Now, both civilians and politicians are calling for the governor’s resignation with protestors filling the street in front of the governor’s mansion in Old San Juan.
Demonstrators say they feel disrespected and deceived. Many believe the chats indicate corruption and that the governor violated their trust, they say.
On Sunday, one man yelled over a microphone, “We will kick you out,” as other protesters filling the street in front of the governor’s mansion joined him chanting, “Ricky resign!”
Leaked chats with the inner circle
The leaked chats reveal a vengeful approach in running the government, with conversations between Rosselló and his inner circle including homophobic and anti-female sentiments.
In one conversation about the management of Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, the governor wrote “Dear Oversight Board, Go F Yourself.”
Other remarks disparage politicians and journalists.
In one chat, Christian Sobrino Vega, then-Puerto Rico’s chief fiscal officer and Roselló’s representative on the federal board managing the fiscal crisis, expressed frustration with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and said he wanted to shoot her.
“You’d be doing me a grand favor,” the governor responded, according to the leaked chats.
Politicians call for investigation
Even those involved with Roselló are pulling support amid the scandal.
Carlos Johnny Méndez, speaker of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives and a member of Rosselló’s New Progressive Party, told a local radio show Monday morning that he’d been in touch with the governor and was pulling back his support.
“There are many issues to address, and we cannot have these distractions,” Méndez said on the show.
Puerto Rico Sen. Aníbal José Torres, who chairs the Popular Democratic Party, has called for an investigation, saying he believes the chats contain ethical and criminal violations.
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, the American territory’s nonvoting representative in the US Congress, who was also mocked in the group chat, said the governor’s apologies are not enough.
Some are even planning to take part in the protests.
Mark-Viverito, the ex-New York City Council speaker who the governor insulted, has traveled to the island to join protesters in their calls for the governor to resign.
A stateside protest is planned for Tuesday in Washington D.C. in front of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration building.
The first lady defends her husband
Beatriz Rosselló wrote a letter addressing the calls for Rosselló to resign, saying she felt she owed the community an explanation.
In the letter she defends her husband, saying that although he has failed, the governor has accepted it with humility and has asked for forgiveness.
Rosselló says her husband immediately apologized for his words and she believes he means it.
“He made a mistake, he recognized it, and immediately apologized for it,” the letter reads. “We had a conversation about it, I know him well, I recognize his sincerity and therefore I understand his sincerity, and I believe his regret.”
The chats use derogatory terms against women, including former New York City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and homophobic comments about singer Ricky Martin.
But the first lady says that Rosselló has respect for women and values family. “Ricardo, like me, values women, the family, and inclusion,” she said. “He was raised to a higher standard with respect.”
She says her husband has begun several initiatives during times of adversity that have benefited the territory and that citizens shouldn’t lose sight of the changes he’s made.
“Ricardo feels a deep love for this land and people,” Beatriz Rosselló said. “His mandates have been concentrated on establishment, tranquility and security for our people.”
Rosselló said he will not resign
The governor has said that he will not answer the calls for his resignation.
“Despite the difficulties that we have internal and external, the work will continue and the agenda will be completed in all areas, social, educational, safety, health, infrastructure, recovery and everything related to the financial situation that is a high priority among others,” he said.
“You do not give up on work already started, and today, more than ever, a lot of people are counting on my commitment to do so.”
If Rosselló were to resign, the law says the secretary of state, a post that is currently empty, is next in line to take the helm, followed by the island’s treasurer.
Governor Roselló’s office has not responded to CNN’s request for an interview.