Why Are Puerto Ricans Protesting Governor Ricardo Rossello? Here's What's Going On
Puerto Rico has seen a series of protests in recent days after offensive messages from its governor, Ricardo Rosselló, were leaked to the public. On Saturday, July 13, Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism obtained and published nearly 900 pages of leaked messages apparently exchanged between Rosselló and several of his Cabinet members and top aides. Following initial leaks on July 12, Rosselló appeared to confirm his participation in these message exchanges and apologized for his "inappropriate" actions. According to CNN, many of the messages were homophobic and misogynistic, which is why many Puerto Ricans are now protesting their governor. Elite Daily reached out to Rosselló's office for comment on the governor's response to ongoing protests but did not immediately hear back.
The 889 pages' worth of messages were exchanged on an instant messaging app called Telegram. In the messages, Rosselló allegedly joked about shooting San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, per Al Jazeera, and insulted former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The messages also included a homophobic remark about Puerto Rican pop star and actor Ricky Martin, Al Jazeera reported, as well as a joke about those who died during Hurricane Maria.
According to NPR, the message leaks prompted many of Rosselló's top allies to withdraw their support, and two of his top officials stepped down. In a July 12 press conference responding to the initial leak, Rosselló said he had been releasing tensions from long workdays in the chats. “None of this justifies the words I’ve written,” he said, per The Washington Post. “My apologies to all the people I have offended ... This was a private chat.”
In the days since the messages were leaked, protesters across Puerto Rico have been demanding that the governor step down as well. Rosselló, however, told reporters during a news conference on July 16 that he would not be resigning. "I will continue my work and my responsibility to the people of Puerto Rico," Rosselló said, per CNN. Rosselló also reportedly still plans on running for a second gubernatorial term in 2020, according to CBS News.
Rosselló's statement did not deter demonstrators who have been calling for his resignation, however. On Wednesday, July 17, one day after Rosselló announced that he would be staying on as governor, thousands of protesters marched through Old San Juan, chanting and singing their demands for Rosselló to step down. Then, later in the day, hundreds of protesters gathered outside of Puerto Rico's Capitol and marched to the governor's local residence with tambourines in hand. Martin, who was a subject of homophobic remarks in the leaked messages, joined the protesters, as did reggaeton star Bad Bunny, CNN reported.
The protests continued into the early hours of Thursday, July 18. According to CNN, the demonstrations escalated through the night, with protesters overturning barricades and throwing firecrackers. The Miami Herald reported that police responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd, allegedly injuring both protesters and journalists in the process.
The protests against Rosselló were not limited to Puerto Rico, either. Puerto Rican communities across the United States, from Florida and New York to California and Washington D.C., also held protests calling for the governor's resignation. In New York, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda joined Mark-Viverito — who Rosselló allegedly described in Spanish as a "wh*re" in the leaked messages — in a rally at Union Square. According to CNN, Rosselló apologized after the message about Mark-Viverito was leaked.
Yulín Cruz, meanwhile, urged San Juan residents to join the demonstrations. According to the Miami Herald, Puerto Ricans in Spain, Italy, and the Dominican Republic also showed their support for the protests against Rosselló on social media. Although Rosselló has said for now that he intends to continue serving as governor, protesters have made it clear that they will keep fighting for his resignation.