Hundreds of thousands in San Juan demand Puerto Rico's governor resign

By Marco Bello SAN JUAN (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people filled San Juan streets on Monday to demand that Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló resign over offensive chat messages, the latest scandal to hit a bankrupt island struggling to recover from deadly 2017 hurricanes. Rosselló's announcement on Sunday that he would not seek re-election next year and would step down as head of the New Progressive Party seemed to have little effect on the crowds, who called for him to immediately surrender the governorship

Reuters July 23, 2019 00:07:02 IST
Hundreds of thousands in San Juan demand Puerto Rico's governor resign

Hundreds of thousands in San Juan demand Puerto Ricos governor resign

By Marco Bello

SAN JUAN (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people filled San Juan streets on Monday to demand that Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló resign over offensive chat messages, the latest scandal to hit a bankrupt island struggling to recover from deadly 2017 hurricanes.

Rosselló's announcement on Sunday that he would not seek re-election next year and would step down as head of the New Progressive Party seemed to have little effect on the crowds, who called for him to immediately surrender the governorship. The island's largest newspaper on Monday called on the first-term governor to leave office.

Crowds of people, many dressed in black T-shirts and waving the U.S. island territory's flag, filled a major highway in San Juan in the latest in a series of more than a week of sometimes violent protests in the capital and elsewhere.

"They can't deny it: The power is in the street," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz wrote in a Twitter message on Monday.

"These governments are corrupt governments," said Martin Gonzalez, who joined Monday's march. "The people must make themselves be respected. And we take to the streets to be respected."

Rosselló, 40, asked for forgiveness and said he respected the wishes of Puerto Ricans in a message broadcast online on Sunday.

"I know that apologizing is not enough," Rosselló said in a video posted on Facebook. "A significant sector of the population has been protesting for days. I'm aware of the dissatisfaction and discomfort they feel. Only my work will help restore the trust of these sectors."

The publication on July 13 of sexist and homophobic chat messages between Rosselló and top aides unleashed simmering resentment over his handling of devastating hurricanes in 2017, alleged corruption in his administration, and the island's bankruptcy process.

The protests were also sparked by U.S. authorities' announcement of a federal indictment involving six people, including two former high-ranking Puerto Rico government officials, charged with conspiracy and other crimes in connection with millions of dollars in federal Medicaid and education funds.

Puerto Rico's largest newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, called on Rosselló to resign in an editorial published on Monday.

"Puerto Rico has spoken up, not only as a strong, broad and united voice but as the right voice," the editorial said. "With a gesture of nobility and humility, Governor, it is time to listen to the people. You have to resign."

U.S. President Donald Trump, who feuded with Rosselló in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, blasted the governor at the White House on Monday.

"He's a terrible governor," Trump said. "You have totally grossly incompetent leadership at the top of Puerto Rico."

'POWER OF THE PEOPLE'

Puerto Rico's nonvoting representative to the U.S. Congress as well as Democratic presidential candidates and lawmakers have called for the governor to step aside after nine days of sometimes violent protests.

Puerto Rico House Speaker Carlos Mendez, part of Rosselló's New Progressive Party, appointed an independent panel on Friday to investigate whether the chats warranted impeachment.

The political turmoil comes at a critical stage in the island's bankruptcy process as it tries to restructure some $120 billion in debt and pension obligations.

It has also raised concerns among U.S. lawmakers who are weighing the island's requests for billions of federal dollars for healthcare and work to recover from Hurricane Maria, which led to nearly 3,000 deaths.

Puerto Rican celebrities including pop singer Ricky Martin, a target of the governor's chats, meringue singer Olga Tañón and rapper Bad Bunny joined the protest crowds.

"I want to feel the power of the people," Martin, 47, said in a Facebook video, urging legislative leaders to start an impeachment process.

(Additional reporting by Luis Valentin Ortiz in San Juan, Karen Pierog in Chicago, Zach Fagenson in Miami, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Roberta Rampton in Washington and Peter Szekeley and Jonathan Allen in New York, writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Jonathan Oatis)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.