Calls for Gov. Rosselló’s resignation grow
As the hours pass, more organizations and individuals demand his ouster
By María Soledad Dávila Calero and Yanira Hernández Cabiya
SAN JUAN — Protesters amassed in Old San Juan for a second day to demand the resignation of embattled Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who took the morning to attend a religious service where he was met with praise by both the pastors and churchgoers.
Among the big questions of the day is who will replace the position of secretary of State, which was occupied by Luis G. Rivera Marín until he resigned Saturday, and the positions of chief financial officer and representative of the governor to the island’s Financial Oversight and Management Board, both held by Christian Sobrino until Saturday as well.
Calls for the governor’s resignation have increased with each minute as the island digests the content of the 889 pages of a messaging app chat group in which Rosselló and his inner circle speak without inhibition about how to manipulate opinion polls, how to mark officials and journalists to affect their reputation, and how to handle operations to give the impression that they are addressing fundamental problems that affect citizens.
Besides the demonstrations expected on Fortaleza Street, members of the House of Representative have scheduled a meeting for 3 p.m., at the Comfort Inn in Toa Baja, to discuss the situation regarding the governor’s controversial chat group messages, which were leaked, and fraud charges brought by the U.S. Department of Justice against former Education Secretary Julia Keleher and Ángela Ávila, the former executive director of the Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym).
According to Caribbean Business sources, the NPP is creating the environment for an effective transition, while negotiating the resignation of the governor.
The political opposition has also demanded the governor’s departure and anticipate starting an impeachment process at the House of Representatives.
“My position is that [the governor] shouldn’t be the candidate for re-election [in 2020]. I think the governor tore at all of our trust,” said House Speaker Johnny Méndez, adding that the governor had asked the legislative leaders time, a week “of introspection,” as the speaker put it.
In a Sunday morning tweet, President Donald Trump did not mention Puerto Rico directly, but in criticizing the congresswoman of Puerto Rican origin, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, pointed to corruption.
However, the governor, who on Saturday was not seen publicly, appeared Sunday morning at El Calvario Church to ask for prayer, reiterate his repentance for his behavior and reiterate that he has learned a lesson and will continue in his position promoting his policies public.
“My first words are of forgiveness. I recognized that I have made mistakes and [my] No. 1 commitment has been to look for reflection and wisdom from the Almighty. In light of this process, my commitment is learning from what happened and to not do it again. Secondly, I make it my commitment to continue working and redouble our efforts so that Puerto Rico can move forward,” the governor said.
“I am humbled before you and before the Almighty for the faults I have committed, for the gratitude I have for you, for your openness is exceptional,” he added.
A day earlier, the full content of the 889 pages was divulged, causing Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez to order Attorney General Olga Castellón to conduct an investigation to determine whether any crimes were committed.
The chat includes talk of attempts to remove the wife of pro-independence Sen. Juan Dalmau from the government.The Federation of Mayors, which represents NPP municipal executives, legislative presidents Thomas Rivera Schatz and Carlos “Johnny” Méndez and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González also withdrew their support for the governor.
To continue his term, Rosselló would have to do so without what his “winning team,” publicist Edwin Miranda of the KOI ad agency, who was part of the chat group and said he would halt all contracts with the government agencies; communications consultant Carlos Bermúdez, who resigned after the scandal; and without, Christian Sobrino, on whose shoulders were five of the most important government positions.
A House Tourism Committee spokesperson, Carolina Rep. Ángel Matos García, called for the cancellation of any contract with KOI and its owner Edwin Miranda. In a statement, the CEO of the island’s destination marketing organization, Brad Dean, said: “Discover Puerto Rico is not currently contracted with KOI. July 1 to December 31, 2018, we contracted KOI for limited marketing services during a transitional period only. During this time, our organization ran an open, transparent RFP process to select new creative and digital agency partners. KOI did not participate in the RFP process. Our contractual relationship with KOI ended fully in December 2018.”
Facing a second wave of protests Sunday, the police set up a wider perimeter around the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza. This time, the side streets that lead to the rear entrances and vehicle garage are blocked.