Friday, July 19, 2019

Puerto Rico's "Chatgate"

Massive protests in Puerto Rico showed no sign of stopping as labor unions on Thursday organized a Friday march to keep up pressure on the governor to resign. Protesters have jammed streets in San Juan since Saturday, calling on Governor Ricardo Rossello to step down after the leak of a raft of controversial and vulgar text messages between him and his closest allies. The scandal comes on the heels of a federal probe into government corruption on the bankrupt island. The people protesting say they have had enough of corruption on the island. They have also criticized the recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Like never before, all factions of the country agree that Ricardo Rossello has to go,” Juan Cortés, president of the Central Federation of Workers, a public- and private-sector union, said in a statement.

Two top officials in Rossello’s administration, who had participated in the governor’s group chat, resigned on Saturday following the release by Puerto Rico journalist group Centro de Periodismo Investigativo of 889 pages of text messages. They showed how Rossello and his closest advisers exchanged memes, comments that were derogatory, misogynistic and homophobic, as well as privileged information in a Telegram group chat. Last week, U.S. authorities announced indictments involving six people, including two former high-ranking Puerto Rico government officials, who were charged with conspiracy and other crimes in connection with millions of dollars in federal Medicaid and education funds. 

For many Puerto Ricans, frustrations run much deeper—they're the result of a pervasive culture of neglect, violence, and impunity. As Marisol LeBrón, an assistant professor of Mexican-American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin writes: "This is something that protesters have been clear about since the beginning of the protests, although the mainstream media, and particularly U.S. based outlets, have narrowly framed the story around the governor and his associates' inappropriate language and conduct." 

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