WASHINGTON — Chanting “Ricky renuncia (resign)” and “Ricky corrupto (corrupt),” several hundred demonstrators —some banging pots and pans— gathered outside the offices of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) in downtown Washington, D.C. on Tuesday evening to demand that embattled Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló immediately resign. PRFAA is the island government’s agency in the United States.
“I have many family members in Puerto Rico that feel abandoned by the island government. There is a lot of corruption and incompetence on the island. It’s an abuse of the people. This whole situation is absurd. I don’t understand why he doesn’t have the decency to resign. Such arrogance,” said Aixa Ribeiro, a native of the capital city of San Juan who has lived in the Washington metropolitan area since 1977. “He needs to pack his bags and leave. He had his chance and he blew it.”
Calls for Rosselló’s resignation began several days ago when his former education secretary and five other officials were arrested by the FBI in a federal fraud probe, and reached a fever pitch when hundreds of pages of a group chat between Rosselló and several top aides revealed misogynistic, homophobic, and profane language aimed at opponents and others, including journalists and even political allies.
Additionally, the island newspaper El Vocero reports that the FBI is looking at the fundraising and distribution of funds of Unidos Por Puerto Rico (United for Puerto Rico), a group founded by island First Lady Beatriz Rosselló after Hurricane María.
Nanette Báez has lived in the Washington area since 1989, working first for the federal government and is currently in the private sector. The native of the San Juan suburb of Bayamón tells Latino Rebels these types of demonstrations are unprecedented.
“This is the first time in my life that I have seen this kind of thing and seen the people of Puerto Rico rise up and protest. We’ve had enough. He needs to go.”
Governor Rosselló has so far maintained he will not step down, stating on Tuesday during a press conference in San Juan that “I’ve made the decision,” and that keeping his job “is in the best interest of the people of Puerto Rico.”
He added that ”an internal legal team” had examined the contents of the chat and exonerated him of any wrongdoing. Rosselló refused to name the legal team and did not offer any details of the alleged legal analysis.
While the Puerto Rican community in the Washington area is not as large as other U.S. cities, more than 60,000 call the nation’s capital and its suburbs home, which activists say gives them unique access to continue the pressure on the island governor to step down.
“We have direct access to the federal government and the White House. He says he is not resigning, but that’s precisely why we have to keep up the pressure and the demonstrations,” said Edil Sepulveda Carlo, co-founder of the group Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora (Puerto Ricans United in the Diáspora). “We’re going to continue to do this until the governor resigns and our actions could include speaking up in Congress. The Puerto Rican diaspora is very powerful. There are more Puerto Ricans living on the mainland than on the island and their presence here is known. We are here to support and help our fellow Puerto Ricans on the island.”
The demonstration in the nation’s capital was just one of several taking place nationwide and abroad, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Madrid, Spain.
Raised in Puerto Rico, Patricia Guadalupe is a bilingual multimedia journalist based in Washington, D.C., covering the capital for both English and Spanish-language media outlets. She tweets from @PatriciagDC.