Thousands of Protesters March on Home of Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello Demanding His Resignation Amid Corruption Investigation and Vulgar Chat Messages Scandal as U.S. Presidential Candidates and Congress Members Also Call for Him to Step Down

Demonstrators protest against governor Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Friday, July 19, 2019. Protesters are demanding Rossello step down for his involvement in a private chat in which he used profanities to describe an ex-New York City councilwoman and a federal control board overseeing the island’s finance. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Congressional lawmakers have added their voice to those of protesters calling for Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello’s resignation in the wake of a federal corruption probe that unearthed hundreds of pages of vulgar and offensive leaked chat messages.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans, led by protesters on horseback with some banging drums and singing, marched on the governor’s residence in San Juan on Friday, demanding that Rossello resign over the messages, which attacked political adversaries, many using misogynistic and homophobic language.

The chats on a Telegram message group were published on July 13, adding to Rossello’s woes the same week that two of his former officials were arrested by the FBI as part of a federal corruption probe in the bankrupt U.S. territory.

On Friday night, Rossello’s press secretary, Dennise Pérez, resigned, saying in statement that she could no longer hold the position after she was called corrupt in front of her son.

‘It´s your turn, Ricky,’ protesters chanted on the street after word spread that Pérez had resigned, according to reports on Twitter.

Congressional members, as well as multiple Democratic presidential candidates, took to Twitter to call for Rossello’s resignation.

In response to a tweet estimating that 500,000 people had marched through Old San Juan during Thursday night’s protest, New York City congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, ‘The people of Puerto Rico have spoken loudly and clearly for the world to hear. We must stand with la isla. Rosselló must resign.’

Although born in NYC, Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican descent.

Fellow NYC congresswoman, Puerto Rican-born Nydia Velazquez, tweeted, ‘I have come to the inescapable conclusion that it is time for the Governor of Puerto Rico to resign.’

Florida senator Rick Scott, meanwhile, tweeted that he has ‘long advocated for the families of Puerto Rico. I’ve pledged to be their voice in the Senate. While I’ve been hesitant to weigh in too heavily on the internal political affairs of the island, it’s clear that the current leadership has lost the confidence of the people of PR.’

Scott, who has a large Puerto Rican constituency, added that ‘The island deserves new leadership. I agree with my friend Jenniffer Gonzalez; Governor Rossello should resign.’

Gonzalez is the current Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico and a non-voting member of Congress.

She said a statement, obtained by Fox News, that the governor’s scandal has led to an ‘anarchic image’ of Puerto Rico and that was why she was ‘requesting that for the good of Puerto Rico’ Rossello abdicates his position and allows for the peaceful transition of the government to ‘bring peace and tranquility to our island, which has been mired in a fiscal crisis, severely exacerbated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.’

Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted Friday that she has been ‘standing with the people of Puerto Rico in their protests against corruption and their governor’s behavior. The people have spoken—loud and clear: @RicardoRossello should resign.’

Her tweet follows a previous post in which she noted that Rossello’s ‘actions are hurtful & undermine the public trust. He must answer to the Puerto Rican people.’

Democratic presidential nominee hopeful Julian Castro, the former Secretary of Housing & Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio, Texas, tweeted that ‘Americans in Puerto Rico are holding Governor @ricardorossello accountable for his disgraceful comments & corruption. I stand with the Puerto Ricans in the streets protesting for his resignation. Excessive force against them is not acceptable.’

Castro also told Fox News that ‘It’s clear that Governor Rossello can no longer be effective.’

Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard went a step further and traveled to Puerto Rico to physically stand with the protesters.

‘In Old San Juan tonight to stand with the people of #PuertoRico against corruption,’ Gabbard tweeted Friday. ‘They deserve a government that serves them. #RickyRenuncia #RickyRenunciaYa.’

The political turmoil comes at a critical stage in the U.S. territory’s bankruptcy. It has also raised concerns with U.S. lawmakers who are weighing the island’s requests for billions of federal dollars for healthcare and for recovery efforts following devastating hurricanes in 2017.

Rossello has apologized for the messages, saying they were ‘inappropriate’ but not ‘illegal.’ On Friday he sent tweets showing him carrying on with business as usual.

In a report published on Friday, Puerto Rico’s influential bar association cited clear grounds to impeach the 40-year-old former scientist, based on the ‘depravity’ of the messages. The group’s president, Edgardo Roman, recommended the island’s legislature begin the process.

Puerto Rico has never carried out a political impeachment, according to legal experts, and while opposition legislators back it, the process has yet to gain critical support from lawmakers in Rossello’s governing party.

The 889 pages of messages revealed by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism showed how Rossello and advisers exchanged memes and comments that were derogatory, misogynistic and homophobic, as well as privileged information.

SOURCE: Daily Mail, Maxine Shen; Reuters

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