Protests are taking over the small island of Puerto Rico, reports The New York Times. With a population of just over 3 million, over 90,000 have marched to show their dismay with the current government — which comes to around 3 percent of the population.
One of the catalysts for the march was a number of leaked text exchanges that included Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló writing rude and homophobic remarks. The conversations, made in the cloud service Telegram, included comments where a female politician was referred to as a “wh*re” and jokes that Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz of San Juan was “off her meds.” Participants also made fun of an overweight man and laughed about the number of dead bodies that were overloading the understaffed morgue in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
In light of the text messages, Luis Fortuño, a former governor who is a member of Governor Rosselló’s party, confessed that he believed the governor should step down.
“The governor’s moral authority and credibility to lead are completely gone,” he said. “I only hope and pray that the governor will think of the Puerto Rican people first, and put them above his own political interests.”
However, Governor Rosselló has been clear that he has no intention of resigning. Though he admitted that he “was aware” of the protests, he emphasized his belief that there could be “reconciliation” between his government and the people.
However, the timing is difficult, as many top officials have recently been arrested on charges on corruption — another factor that spurred the protests. Six people with ties to the government, including a former cabinet secretary and agency director, have been charged so far.
In light of the arrests and protests, President Trump gave his opinion on Twitter.
A lot of bad things are happening in Puerto Rico. The Governor is under siege, the Mayor of San Juan is a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance, and the United States Congress foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief, much….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2019
In a follow up tweet, he added that the hurricane relief money had been “squandered” and emphasized his disdain for the government.
“A lot of bad things are happening in Puerto Rico,” he wrote. “I know the people of Puerto Rico well, and they are great. But much of their leadership is corrupt, & robbing the U.S. Government blind!”
President Trump’s criticism is not unfounded, as the Puerto Rican leadership has a history of scandal. Governor Rosselló’s father, who was a governor himself as well, had a number of his closest aides be found guilty of kickback schemes. The governor following him, Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, was found guilty of a scam to pay back debts incurred in the campaign. And after that, Governor Alejandro García Padilla was found guilty of a system of cronyism, that included his brother accepting gifts from a political party.
Many protestors are hoping to create a future where the government is not plagued with scandal and crime. One of those is 34-year-old teacher Vanessa Ruiz, who confessed this was her first protest.
“I have never seen or heard of a transparent government. I haven’t lived under a government that hasn’t been corrupt. This is why we came,” she explained.