Puerto Rico gov: I heard you but believe trust can be restored
Condemns ‘violence’ during historic protest for his resignation
SAN JUAN — After the streets of Old San Juan were flooded with a law enforcement estimate of more than 90,000 people Wednesday demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, sparked by leaked messages between him and his inner circle, as well as federal investigations and the arrest of officials and contractors for improper use of public funds, the governor assured Thursday he would stay in power.
In a statement, Rosselló said: “My family and I, as well as the people of Puerto Rico, are fully aware of the demonstrations that took place [Wednesday] throughout the afternoon and evening. It had widespread participation, which I respect not only as an exercise in democracy, but also as a natural manifestation of frustrations resulting from recent events.
“The clear majority of participants demonstrated properly, while a few decided to utilize improper and violent methods that included the use of firearms, Molotov cocktails and other explosives, causing injuries and striking Puerto Rico Police officers. This affront to law and order will be addressed accordingly.
“Over the past few days I have come forward to face the people of Puerto Rico and beg for forgiveness. I continue to reiterate that plead. I am more committed than ever to pushing forth the public policy agenda that we have been working so hard to implement in all areas of government. I recognize the enormous challenge I have before me due to the recent controversies, but I firmly believe that we can restore trust and, after this painful and shameful process, achieve reconciliation.”
Although the governor has not changed his stance despite the public outcry during a week of demonstrations, the tune has changed for the legislature. On Wednesday, House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez announced he was establishing an exploratory committee to evaluate whether his chamber will initiate an impeachment process.
Demonstrators started arriving Wednesday in the “La Isleta,” a term used for Old San Juan and Puerta de Tierra, hours before the protest called for 5 p.m., with the Sagrado Corazón train station and the Cataño ferry service packed for hours with people trying to get into Old San Juan, where the governor’s office and residence, La Fortaleza, is located.
While one of the main points of the protest was the Plaza del Quinto Centenario (Fifth Centennial Square), where musical acts took place, the demonstrators also flooded the streets surrounding La Fortaleza, as well as the Plaza de Armas (Arms Square), chanting, “Ricky resign,” and other rhymes, along with traditional Puerto Rican songs. Several demonstrators from different civic groups gave statements of condemnation on microphones, reiterating grievances with austerity measures implemented and government management.
The massive peaceful protest, which was attended by Puerto Rican singers of international renown such as Ricky Martín, Residente and Bad Bunny, took an abrupt turn after activists close to the security perimeter of La Fortaleza overturned concrete barriers placed to hold off those wanting to get closer to the mansion.
Police announced that the activity was no longer protected by people’s constitutional right and shortly began launching tear gas canisters and marched toward the demonstrators. The Police Bureau said it took action after fireworks were lobbed at agents.
The riot police then initiated its plan to push demonstrators out of the old city with the use of tear gas and arrests, of which there were 11. The operation continued beyond Fortaleza Street, spreading through many other streets, including San Sebastián Street. Despite the numerous law enforcement contingent involved, some protesters remained and started a few small fires with articles found around the street and squares, which were put out by firefighters.