Puerto Rico governor: Our patience and tolerance reached their limit
SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he will investigate, identify and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law anyone who has committed “criminal acts” during demonstrations Monday in Hato Rey.
“Our patience and tolerance has reached its reasonable limit,” the governor stressed. The event was no longer an act of freedom of expression; “it became a criminal act,” he said, adding there is “extensive video evidence” about the incidents in San Juan’s financial district, called the Golden Mile.
The governor added that federal authorities are already involved in the investigative efforts and that “we will be filing cases at the local and federal level.”
Meanwhile, Rosselló called on the courts to “assume their responsibility” once they have judged the legal action the government will take, which will have all the necessary elements to have “cases ready.”
So far, seven people have been arrested and six police officers were injured. However, La Fortaleza did not say how many demonstrators were affected.
The so-called national strike, which was called for by several unions, organizations and student groups, began Monday at more than five points in San Juan. From there, thousands of people marched to the Seaborne Airlines World Plaza Building, where the offices of Puerto Rico’s fiscal control board are located.
Caribbean Business asked the governor for his opinion about the demands of thousands of protesters who did not necessarily commit “criminal acts,” such as the ones he mentioned at the beginning of his conference, and are disappointed with his administration’s austerity measures.
“Dialogue with the unions has been open […] We have established a fiscal plan in a clear and transparent way […] That we have had to make decisions and make sacrifices … of course. […] My responsibility is to act intelligently, in the best interest of the people of Puerto Rico, and to make sure that even though there are sacrifices [to be made], we are not jeopardizing Puerto Ricans’ opportunities, life, work and access to healthcare,” Rosselló said.
The governor assured he understands the demands, and said there is room for dialogue “in a peaceful way,” but “it is our generation’s turn to take on the enormous challenge of rebuilding Puerto Rico […] and I am going to trace [the path of] what I believe to be the best alternative for the people.”
Rosselló denied that the government broke the agreements reached by the police and some unions before the protest to not have riot police present. He blamed the organizers and “the politicians who incited violent acts”–particularly the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz–all of whom he asked to “assume their responsibilities.”
“I am the commander in chief of the Police,” the governor said when explaining he gave the order for law enforcement officers to intervene after two Golden Mile buildings were “vandalized.”
While the governor was making his first public expressions following the demonstrations Monday, La Fortaleza remained under tight security, with the expectation that protests could move toward the executive mansion. In fact, fire department hoses could be seen inside the Santa Catalina Palace, which security employees at La Fortaleza said were a “security measure.”
Demonstrations in the Hato Rey banking area included several clashes between the police and some of the demonstrators, as well as the use of tear gas and pepper spray. Several buildings on the Golden Mile suffered physical damage.