'Either You Leave or We Take You Out': Puerto Rican Diaspora Demands Rosselló Resignation
In a passionate sea of red and blue flags and shirts, hundreds of Puerto Ricans gathered Tuesday evening in front of the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami to demand the resignation or impeachment of Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosselló and the appointment of a new gubernatorial cabinet in the island.
The Puerto Rican diaspora rallied fervently against Roselló and other politicians in the island, chanting “Ricky, renuncia! [Ricky, resign!]” at the rhythm of lively Plena music being played.
Tuesday's mass anti-government protests in Puert Rico and around the world stem from ongoing corruption scandals that have fueled popular anger against Roselló and his associates. Last week, two of the governor's top former officials were arrested by the FBI under corruption charges. More recently, Puerto Rico's Centro de Periodismo Investigativo [Center for Investigative Journalism] published 889 messages between Roselló and nine other male associates on the popular app Telegram, showing, in a language laced with profanity, mysoginy and homophobia, how the group used public funds for their political purposes.
Rosselló has apologized for his comments but said on Tuesday that he would not resign.
“It’s not about the chat. It’s just basically a lot of things that’s been going on,” said Carlos Pilar, a Puerto Rican now residing in Kendall, at the protest. “I think there’s a conscience already that we need to do better, we need to organize ourselves and say no to corruption in the first place and be transparent.”
“4,465 victims after Hurricane María cannot go unaccounted for, especially when there was money to help and that money was used elsewhere,” said Iniabel Ruiz originally from Humacao, Puerto Rico and now living in Miami.
Ruiz’s father passed away during the hurricane in 2017 because of a lack of functioning equipment in hospitals during the disaster. Some of the leaked Telegram messages joked about the hurricane’s dead.
“In that number of dead is my father. That is why I’m here, because it hurts me,” Ruiz said.
Protesters spoke out against the corruption that has included a misuse of resources for Hurricane María relief, a misallocation of funds for public education, and the manipulation of polls by the governor to favor his administration.
“Thanks to the government’s corruption, they’ve accumulated huge federal debt for the whole country,” said Javier Ayala, a student at Florida International University and a member of the Puerto Rican student organization. “They’ve taken funds away from healthcare and education which are greatly needed. That’s one of the reasons a lot of people left, especially students, because they needed to get their education in a place where they could have better materials.”
Ayala is in Miami to go to school, but he says he still lives in Puerto Rico. He complained of poor educational resources there and lack of proper healthcare, both of which were ran by secretaries that were arrested in an FBI corruption probe on July 10th.
Federal Puerto Rican authorities arrested the ex-secretaries of education and the health insurance administration for unlawfully directing about $15.5 million between 2017 and 2019 in federal contracts to consultants of political interest.
Hundreds of public schools had been closed during the tenure of the past secretary of education due to an alleged lack of resources.
At the protest, speakers from varying Puerto Rican and Latino organizations could hardly finish their sentences without chants and songs breaking out that derisively referred to the Governor as “Ricky.”
These included “Ricky, either you leave, or we take you out!”, “I don’t feel like being an American colony” and others in Spanish, all supported by the instruments of Puerto Rican residents who played the island’s traditional Plena music.
Another chant was of “Ricky, where are you? You’re not here, you’re out selling what’s left of our country.”
Adriana Rivera, communications director of Alianza for Progress, a progressive Puerto Rican political group in Florida, said this referred to the government’s lucrative privatization of its electricity and water industries.
“For the people, it has happened in stages: first it was indignation, sadness, and anger,” Rivera said. “Now it’s force, force to go out into the streets and demand that these people let go of their power because they don’t deserve it."
She pointed out that most of Puerto Ricans in South Florida were born on the island.
“I personally prefer impeachment because that way he [Roselló] won’t be privy to his pension, if he gets impeached,” she added. “If he resigns, he’ll get the pension and keep living off the Puerto Rican people. In the end, people just want him gone.”
WLRN intern Sherrilyn Cabrera contributed reporting.