88°F
weather icon Clear

Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans fill highway, demand governor resign

Updated July 22, 2019 - 11:54 am

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Waving flags, chanting and banging pots and pans, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans filled a central highway Monday to demand the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in what appeared to be the biggest protest on the island in nearly two decades.

The demonstration came 10 days after the leak of 889 pages of obscenity-laced online chats between Rosselló and some of his close advisers. In the conversations, they insulted women and mocked constituents, including victims of Hurricane Maria.

The leak has intensified long-smoldering anger in the U.S. territory over persistent corruption and mismanagement by the island’s two main political parties, a severe debt crisis, a sickly economy and a slow recovery from Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017.

“The people have awakened after so much outrage,” said 69-year-old retired nurse Benedicta Villegas. “There are still people without roofs and highways without lights. The chat was the tip of the iceberg.”

‘This is just the beginning’

Jannice Rivera, a 43-year-old mechanical engineer who lives in Houston but was born and raised in Puerto Rico and flew in solely to join the protest, said: “This is just the beginning. Finally, the government’s mask has fallen.”

The crowd surged along the American Expressway despite the punishing heat — toddlers, teenagers, professionals and the elderly, all dripping in sweat and smiling as they waved Puerto Rico flags large and small and hoisted signs.

One group dragged a portable karaoke machine and chanted, “Ricky, resign!”

“This is to show that the people respect themselves,” said Ana Carrasquillo, 26. “We’ve put up with corruption for so many years.”

Says he won’t quit or seek re-election

Rosselló, a Democrat, announced Sunday evening that he would not quit, but sought to calm the unrest by promising not to seek re-election in 2020 or continue as head of his pro-statehood political party. That only further angered his critics, who have mounted street demonstrations for more than a week.

“The people are not going to go away,” said Johanna Soto, of the city of Carolina. “That’s what he’s hoping for, but we outnumber him.”

The territory’s largest newspaper, El Nuevo Dia, added to the pressure with the front-page headline: “Governor, it’s time to listen to the people: You have to resign.”

Organizers labeled the planned road shutdown “660,510 + 1” — which represents the number of people who voted for Rosselló plus one more — to reject his argument that he is not resigning because he was chosen by the people.

‘I have apologized’

In a video posted Sunday night on Facebook, Rosselló said he welcomed people’s freedom to express themselves. He also said he is looking forward to defending himself as Puerto Rico’s legislature begins exploring impeachment.

“I hear you,” he said. “I have made mistakes and I have apologized.”

The demonstrations in this territory of more than 3 million American citizens represent the biggest protest movement on the island since Puerto Ricans rallied to put an end to U.S. Navy training on the island of Vieques more than 15 years ago.

Monday was the 10th consecutive day of protests, and more are being called for later in the week. The island’s largest mall, Plaza de las Américas, closed ahead of the protest, as did dozens of other businesses. The upheaval also prompted at least four cruise ships to cancel visits to Puerto Rico, and many officials worry about the effect a resignation would have on the already fragile economy.

Country struggling

Puerto Rico is struggling to restructure part of its $70 billion in debt under federal supervision and deal with a 13-year recession through school closings, cutbacks in infrastructure maintenance and other austerity measures.

At the same time, the island is trying to rebuild from Maria, which caused more than $100 billion in damage, threw Puerto Rico into a year-long blackout and left thousands dead, most of them succumbing during the sweltering aftermath.

Also, the island has seen a recent string of arrests of Puerto Rico officials on corruption charges. Those arrested included the former education secretary.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
THE LATEST
Court says US can reject asylum along parts of Mexico border

A federal appeals court’s ruling will allow the White House to begin rejecting asylum at some parts of the U.S.-Mexico border for migrants who arrived after transiting through a third country.

Greenland advises Trump it’s not for sale

“We see it as an expression of greater interest in investing in our country and the possibilities we offer,” the government said. “Of course, Greenland is not for sale.”

Trump ties US economic success to winning 2nd term

President Donald Trump sought to reassure his supporters about the state of the U.S. economy in New Hampshire, a state that he hopes to capture in 2020, that their financial security depends on his reelection.