#TelegramGate Continues: New Leaks Expose Sexist Language From Puerto Rico Governor Rosselló

Jul 11, 2019
11:21 AM

UPDATE, July 13, 2019: Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo has published the full Telegram chat thread, all 889 pages of it.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A new set of Telegram leaks show Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló and his friends hurling sexist insults to two women and making fun of the Financial Oversight Board, Senate president Thomás Rivera Schatz, and a former gubernatorial candidate.

One of the most disturbing findings is the use of strong sexist language against former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Natalie Jaresko, executive director of the Financial Oversight Board.

The members of the group chart appear to be governor Rosselló, Chief of Staff Ricardo Llerandi; the Governor’s former legal advisor Alfonso Orona; former Public Affairs Secretary for La Fortaleza Ramón Rosario; government communications advisor Carlos Bermudez; government communications advisor Rafael Cerame D’Acosta; publicist and statehood party donor Edwin Miranda, and the executive director of the Financial Advisory Authority and Fiscal Agency and representative to the Governor on the Financial Oversight Board Christian Sobrino; and the person identified only as “F do” (who many are speculating to be Elías Fernando Sánchez, Rosselló’s former campaign manager and representative in the Oversight Board).

In the chat, Rosselló can be seen threatening Mark-Viverito and calling her a puta (a slut) for criticizing DNC Chair Tom Perez, who was siding with statehood Democrats. Rosselló is a registered Democrat and leader of the Statehood party (PNP, in Spanish) in Puerto Rico.

Mark-Viverito, who now heads up the Latino Victory Project, released a statement in Spanish soon after, saying the governor’s machismo has been exposed and that a person who uses that type of language against a woman, whether a public figure or not, should not govern Puerto Rico.

“I find it extremely worrying that if anyone questions something specific about this administration, it is immediately cataloged as a problem. And I go further, all that violent language…is typical of an environment that does not correspond to what an administration in charge of a country in crisis should have,” she wrote in Spanish.

“It is up to the courts, in due course, to determine whether or not there is corruption in this government administration,” Mark-Viverito added. “However, beyond the apparent criminal corruption in your government, we must feel and manifest our indignation at the moral corruption in treating others with this level of machismo, homophobia, mockery and disrespect.”

“The governor’s machismo was exposed,” she said. “When a male chauvinist wants to belittle a woman, he uses words like “whore” to belittle, dehumanize and degrade her. A person who uses that language against a woman, whether a public figure or not, should not govern Puerto Rico.”

Further on, reacting to a story about the Fiscal Board’s budget cuts, Rosselló messaged an “authorized statement” telling the Oversight Board to “Go fuck yourself,” followed by multiple middle finger emojis.

The group also commented on an interview Sobrino did, and made fun of cinco gatos, which roughly translates to a small group, and when Ramón Rosario pointed that he forgot to mention his other gatita Natalie Jaresko (here gata is used in a sexist context referring to a girlfriend or side chick), Sobrino replied with “Fo” (ew) and a disgust meme.

The new set of pages were posted by veteran journalist Sandra Rodríguez Cotto in her personal blog En Blanco y Negro con Sandra, who told Latino Rebels that although she was only able to look at around 50 of the almost 900 printed pages, she believes that the information there is devastating to Rosselló and his friends.

Rodríguez Cotto told LR that she was only able to take pictures of the ones she posted, but she saw a binder that divided the conversation by topics, like one dedicated to Rivera Schatz and another to Resident Commissioner Jennifer González.

The journalist said she was also told about a rumor of pages that possibly included insults to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz but did not write about it because she did not see them firsthand.

Although Rodríguez Cotto refused to reveal her source, she assures that she would never publish anything she didn’t believe to be credible.

“It’s a serious source. I always make sure that my stories come from trusted sources and that I have the utmost confidence in this source,” she said.

#TelegramGate began late Monday evening when a private group chat between Rosselló and members of his inner circle was made public. That thread contained homophobic jokes, insults of a respected journalist, and several memes making fun of Rivera Schatz.

Rosselló has had a busy week, between the leaks and the arrests of former administration members charged with corruption. Latino Rebels has reached out to Rosselló’s office for comment, but has not heard back at the time of publication.

UPDATE, July 11, 11:30pm ET: Rosselló held a Thursday night press conference from San Juan.


Natalia Rodríguez Medina is the 2019 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She is a member the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s Class of 2019. Natalia tweets from @nataliarodmed.