Puerto Ricans demand governor’s resignation
Demonstrate overnight outside his
residence after leaked chat, arrests
OLD SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — After a day marked by strong condemnation even from mayors of his own party and calls for the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, about 200 protesters converged at the corner of La Fortaleza and Cristo streets, the entrance to his official residence, La Fortaleza, to demand he step down.
The demonstration comes as a reaction to leaked messages between the governor an members of his inner circle. These sparked outrage as they included profanity, misogynistic and homophobic remarks, as well as political maneuverings laid bare.
Adding to the public backlash brought about by the government officials’ chat group was a 32-count indictment on fraud-related charges this week, for which the former heads of the Department of Education and the Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym), were arrested, along with contractors of those agencies.
Nevares announced Saturday that all chat participants resigned from their positions in the government; however, he asked his chief of staff, Ricardo Llerandi, who was part of the chat group, and the secretary of Public Affairs, Anthony Maceira, to stay on board.
“After analyzing the content of the communications, it is impossible for me and for those who expect the highest ethical and behavioral standards, to continue with this controversy that distracts and hinders the important public efforts that lie ahead,” the governor’s statement reads.
Earlier, Christian Sobrino, the governor’s representative to the island’s Financial Oversight and Mangement Board and head of the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, stepped down from his positions “to begin an orderly transition that should end in the next few days. I have already started consulting with his possible successors early in the morning and I will be in a position to announce it in the next few hours,” the governor said, adding that Secretary of State Luis Gerardo Rivera Marín submitted his resignation as well.
Tensions rose between protesters and police when some demonstrators began to move the barriers set up to get closer to the gates of La Fortaleza. After some push-and-pull between officers and protesters, tensions subsided and the crowd moved to La Fortaleza’s other main entrance, where they were met by riot police.
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico Justice Department assigned prosecutor Olga Castellón to lead a probe into whether any of the Telegram app chat messages could constitute a crime. Former police monitor Arnaldo Claudio had presented a complaint to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), alleging the governor and other members of the chat group conspired to tamper with and derail court-appointed duties.
While many of the demonstrators’ complaints are related to the leaked messages, they have many other grievances, with some alleging government corruption and decrying austerity measures, especially with regard to the island’s education and healthcare sectors.
At least 100 protesters planned to stay overnight to join a teachers’ march slated for Sunday morning.