22 July, 2019
For nine days, thousands of Puerto Ricans have filled the streets of San Juan in an effort to force the island's governor to resign.
Many of the protesters are angry about Governor Ricardo Rosselló's actions after hurricanes struck Puerto Rico in 2017. They were also unhappy with reports of corruption in his administration, and the bankruptcy process in the United States territory.
But the publication on July 13 of sexist and homophobic messages between Rosselló and top aides pushed Puerto Ricans' patience to the limit. Some of the messages are said to have joked about the victims of Hurricane Maria.
Rosselló announced on Sunday that he would not seek re-election next year. He also said he would leave his position as head of the New Progressive Party, known as the PNP. But that seemed to have little effect on the crowds, which continue the push for his immediate resignation.
In an editorial published Monday, Puerto Rico's largest newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, demanded that Rosselló resign as governor.
Thousands of demonstrators took control of a main San Juan road Monday in the latest protest on the island. Many were wearing black T-shirts and waving the U.S. territory's flag.
"They can't deny it: The power is in the street," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz wrote in a Twitter message on Monday.
Sunday night, Rosselló asked for forgiveness and said he respected the wishes of Puerto Ricans.
"I know that apologizing is not enough," he said in a video published on Facebook. He noted that a large sector of the population had been protesting and he knows they are dissatisfied with him. "Only my work will help restore the trust of these sectors," he said.
His comments angered many Puerto Ricans. Social media videos showed people in San Juan hanging out of windows. In some of those windows, people made noise by hitting pots or other cookware.
In its newspaper editorial, El Nuevo Dia wrote, "Puerto Rico has spoken up, not only as a strong, broad and united voice but as the right voice." The paper told the governor, "It is time to listen to the people. You have to resign."
Power of the people
On the United States mainland, government officials are also calling for Rosselló's resignation. The calls come from the island's non-voting member in the U.S. Congress and democratic and republican lawmakers.
The Speaker of Puerto Rico's House of Representatives has appointed an independent investigation on whether the messages can justify impeachment.
House Speaker Carlos Mendez and Rosselló both belong to the PNP. The party has been seeking statehood for the island. As a territory, the island's more than 3 million U.S. citizens do not have full representation in Congress and cannot vote in presidential elections.
Rosselló has spent most of his time seeking federal money since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico. He has also been battling the financial measures set up by U.S. Congress to oversee the island government's finances.
The island's political conflict comes at an important time as the territory tries to restructure part of its $70 billion in debt.
It has also raised concerns among U.S. lawmakers as they consider the island's requests for money to rebuild after Hurricane Maria. The hurricane led to nearly 3,000 deaths and caused more than an estimated $100 billion in damage.
I'm Alice Bryant.
This story combines reports by Marco Bello of Reuters News Agency and Danica Coto of the Associated Press. Alice Bryant adapted the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
resign – v. to surrender a job or position in a formal or official way
angry – adj. having a strong feeling of being upset or annoyed
bankruptcy – n. a condition of financial failure caused by not having the money needed to pay your debts
homophobic – adj. having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people
editorial – n. an essay in a newspaper or magazine that gives the opinions of its editors or publishers
sector – n. a part of society that can be distinguished from other parts because of its own special character
impeachment – n. the charge of a crime against a public official while they are holding political office