Thursday, August 22, 2019

Over 200,000 sign petition for Puerto Rico gov’s resignation

By on July 18, 2019

(Alina Luciano/CB)

Protests against embattled Rosselló planned through Monday

SAN JUAN — More than 200,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org demanding that Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resign for his “incompetence and lack of maturity to govern and for continuous corruption charges at the highest levels of his cabinet.”

Since Tuesday, when the petition totaled some 60,000 signatures after thousands called for the governor to resign, the number ballooned following the historic demonstration Wednesday of what has been estimated at more than 100,000 people.

“It’s sad to wake up and see the embarrassing arrests of officials that were supposed to work for the people…after being struck by a hurricane with the devastating results that we all know of, it’s a mix of sadness and indignation to see that so many Boricua brothers still live under a blue tarp and in inhuman conditions” after Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, the petition says.

The appeal to demand the governor’s dismissal includes that millions of dollars in contracts have been awarded to friends and his cabinet has been overpaid while “the people are repeatedly told there is a fiscal crisis.

“You, Mr. Governor, every time there is an irregularity or a new scandal, you look the other way or come with your broken-record speech that you will put in place a firm hand or ‘chop heads’ off of those who incur in acts of corruption,” the petition says, reiterating it is time he accepts the disaster “you have caused” and resign.

(Alina Luciano/CB)

“And, in this infamous chat, where you and your group insult, denigrate, make jokes of all kinds, called prominent people words that can’t be published, mock corpses accumulated at Forensic Sciences [Institute], creating fake news, mocking the deaths of prominent figures…for insulting journalists,  for all this and much more, we demand your resignation.”

Rosselló has maintained he will not resign. In his first press conference since returning to the island last week after two former agency heads were indicted and arrested for fraud, along with the scheme’s contractors, the governor said he would stay in power.

“I am going to continue my work,” Rosselló said. “It’s my responsibility and I feel that it is a great responsibility to the people of Puerto Rico, who allowed me to serve as governor, to continue working and presenting results,” he said.

He said he was making sure that amid the controversy the government continues to operate and that his leaked messages had been analyzed and nothing illegal was found in the contents of the 899 pages.

The governor assured he underwent a process “of introspection and in that process of evaluation and thinking my determination has been to continue working for Puerto Rico.”

(Alina Luciano/CB)

When asked who performed the legal analysis, Rosselló said, “We have a legal team that carried out the analysis,” adding, “It was an internal analysis that was made on the issue of the chat…and, again, the analysis was that there were no illegalities,” he stressed.

 “I have not committed illegal acts,” he said. “I committed inappropriate acts.”

Regarding talk of impeachment, Rosselló said Tuesday he didn’t expect an inquiry would be initiated.

“I don’t see it [happening] that is a Constitutional process that has a series of parameters but it’s a decision that the House of Representatives has to determine…,” the governor said. “I have to continue working, I can’t get distracted with some of these issues that are not under my control. What I have to say is that I have not committed illegal actions and that my commitment is to continue working to be able to obtain the best results for our people.”

Since then, Puerto Rico House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez has provided the names of the attorneys who will investigate the content of the leaked messages.

“We have spoken with Mr. Francisco Reyes, Mr. Luis Enrique Rodríguez, Mr. Enrique Colón Santana, some of whom are specialists in criminal law and others are university professors, all well known in the legal community,” Méndez told the Telenoticias network on Wednesday.

“They will be free of political passions to evaluate this issue of the chat and may issue a recommendation to this speaker about whether there are elements of the commission of a crime to then be able, this speaker, to make the recommendation or introduce the resolution that would start the whole process directed at impeaching the governor,” he said, adding that the investigation should not last more than 10 days.

When Rosselló was asked by Caribbean Business on Tuesday whether he would consider resigning if an impeachment process was begun, rather than having to go through the public hearings process, the governor said he was not going “to deal with hypotheticals.”

“My job right now is to continue to execute and continue my work, which I was delegated to do, so that is my answer to that,” he said.

When asked if he would step down from the New Progressive Party (NPP) presidency, the governor said that “I am moving forward with all of my elected positions,” adding, “I was elected as president of the NPP and I was elected governor of Puerto Rico, so my path forward is continuing, fulfilling my objectives and moving forward.”

Civic groups, unions and other organizations have planned demonstrations through the end of the week, all of which end at his official residence in Old San Juan, while a massive march is slated for Monday morning at PR-18, or Luis A. Ferrer Expressway.

Chief financial post empty

Meanwhile, he said a chief financial officer is needed to continue restructuring the island’s debt.

“So it’s my hope to find somebody to fill that void,” he said, referring to Christian Sobrino, who resigned as the head of the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority after the blowback from the leaked messages of the chat group, in which he participated.

“I am in the process of identifying the best possible talent. There needs to be knowhow. This is an ongoing process, it’s not only talent, there needs to be institutional knowhow, whether it be of the person itself or on the team,” the governor said, adding that a requirement would be that the person have a “moral objection to reducing the pensions or making pension cuts.”

“I hope there is a conversation and my attempt is to have the conversation with all the different stakeholders including the [Financial] Oversight Board to make sure that we can land on a solution for Puerto Rico,” he said.

Regarding Sobrino’s role as the governor’s representative to the fiscal board, Rosselló later said he would be substituted by deputy representative José Santiago, adding that the board “validated” the replacement on an interim basis.

(Alina Luciano/CB)

The following are some of the scheduled demonstrations:

Thursday
Who: PR FEVER
From: Montehiedra
To: Fortaleza, Old San Juan
Time: 7 p.m.

Friday
Who: UTIER (Spanish acronym for Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union) and Movimiento Obrero
From: Bahía Urbana, Old San Juan
To: Fortaleza, Old San Juan
Time: 5 p.m.

Who: General Demonstration
Where: In front of Fortaleza
Time: 5 p.m.

Who: Great Ride with Rey Charlie and Rafael Barrios
Where: TBA
Time: 5 p.m.

Saturday
Who: CACEROLAZO
Where: In front of Fortaleza
Time: 2 p.m.

Who: Silent Protest 4,645 Lives (Total Silence)
Where: In front of Fortaleza
Time: 7 p.m.

Monday
Who: Mass March
Where: Luis A Ferrer Expressway (PR-18)
Time: 9 a.m.

By María Miranda and María Soledad Dávila Calero

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