A Governor Without Allies, Rosselló Refuses to Resign

Jul 16, 2019
4:56 PM

SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló is refusing to step down.

During multiple public appearances and written statements, he says that he plans on completing the goals he set for himself when he was elected back in 2016.

The issue is, in the wake of #TelegramGate and the arrests of high-ranking officials, Rosselló has lost all of his political allies, and many are questioning how someone can govern without the support of most agencies, the state legislature, and the people.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans marched on Monday from the Capitol building to La Fortaleza (the governor’s official residence) to demand that Rosselló step down from office.

Amid a heavy police presence, protesters had been gathering at La Fortaleza since Saturday evening, with hopes that Rosselló would resign after a private group chat where he and his close friends (some public officials) would make homophobic and transphobic jokes, hurl misogynistic insults to women who opposed them, fat-shamed strangers, and mocked his supporters.

The chat, which was fully (889 pages) leaked on Saturday morning, also showed that the group shared classified information (when not all members were government officials), how they would manipulate news stories with some journalists, and how they paid trolls to harass and discredit journalists on social media.

Rosselló and his friends also insulted long-time supporters, like Senate president Thomás Rivera Schatz, House president Johnny Méndez, and resident commissioner Jenniffer González, among other high-profile members of his party.

All of these were quick to admonish Rosselló’s words in the chat, and either called for his resignation or demanded he does not run for re-election in 2020, but quickly flip-flopped at the PNP Caucus meeting held on Sunday.

Rosselló has also lost the support of the religious sector, whom he insulted, the Mayors Federation, the press, among other institutions.

In order to attempt to regain the trust of his party and the people, Rosselló has been in what many are dubbing the “Apology Tour,” starting at a Protestant church (he’s Catholic) where leaders prayed for him and asked for the storm to pass, and he promised to continue serving the country. The church appearance was not covered by the press but live-streamed into the church’s Facebook.

Then, after refusing to meet with the press head on, on Monday morning he appeared at Nación Z, a political analysis radio show. There, he once again apologized and promised to keep working. Outside, one of the commentators of the show, Mayra López Mulero, was denied entry, and another journalist was pushed to the ground by Rosselló’s guards as he was leaving the studio. López Mulero was one of the many insulted by Rosselló in the chat; she later resigned from the show.

All this led to massive calls for his resignation from the people, who used social media to relay the message, and soon protesters began to gather in the historic district.

The first night was peaceful, but on Sunday evening, more protestors showed up and a scuffle with police led to some tear gas being released.

But the full force of the #RickyRenuncia campaign was felt on Monday, when thousands flooded the narrow streets of Old San Juan demanding the Governor step down. Although the march from the Capitol to Fortaleza was peaceful, around 8:30 pm, clashes between police and protestors began, jump-starting a night of violence.

Officially, it still remains unclear who shot first. Police commissioner Henry Escalera said at a press conference on Monday night that protesters began throwing rocks, cobblestones, and their own tear gas, so the riot police responded by throwing tear gas into the crowd. Escalera also said that the police gave several warnings before releasing the tear gas.

But several sources assured that the police never gave them a chance to run away, leaving many injured (no official number is out). Video caught by local TV news station NotiCentro proved that the police shot the canisters first. Videos are still circulating on social media where police in riot gear are shown using excessive force by throwing tear gas in residential areas, beating peaceful protesters, and spraying people standing idly like journalists.

Many of the protesters, cops, and even journalists covering the events say that the energy felt on Monday was unmatched. At the march, you could see people who were young, old, working class, students, from motorcades, diverse political parties and religions asking for Rosselló to resign.

Rosselló finally met with the press on Tuesday morning.

After being an hour late, the governor spoke for two hours about how he won’t resign because he was elected, how he is working hard to battle corruption, and about how he’s fighting to protect people’s freedom of speech.

On Monday, #RickyRenuncia reached the #4 slot in Worldwide trends on Twitter, and protests have or will happen in cities like New York, Boston, Washington, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Madrid.

Now activists are calling for another mass gathering on Wednesday afternoon, and Puerto Rican artists like Bad Bunny, Ednita Nazario, and Residente (among others) will be in attendance.


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.