Protests demanding the immediate resignation of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló erupted for a third day Monday night, with police in riot gear creating a human barricade outside of the governor’s mansion and launching tear gas and pepper spray into the crowd.
Demonstrations began after hundreds of pages from a private group chat between the 40-year-old governor and nine confidants leaked Saturday, exposing what news reports say was a profanity-riddled conversation.
The newest scandal — which has been called “Chatgate” or “Rickyleaks” — led several government officials to pull their support for Rosselló and comes days after the FBI arrested two former officials on corruption charges for the misuse of $15.5 million in federal funding between 2017 and 2019.
The misogynistic conversation, stored on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, used racial and homophobic slurs and included derogatory comments about Rosselló’s political rivals, the Associated Press reported.
There are crude comments directed at a federal control board overseeing Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, former New York City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and singer Ricky Martin’s sexuality, according to news reports.
In the leaked conversations, former chief fiscal officer Christian Sobrino reportedly complained about San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, according to CNN. After Sobrino said he would like to shoot the mayor, Rosselló replied, “You’d be doing me a grand favor.”
In the Telegram group were Luis Rivera Marín, Rosselló’s secretary of state; Sobrino, the one-time chief fiscal officer who sat on the board managing Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis; Carlos Bermúdez, a former communications aide; Edwin Miranda, a communications consultant; Interior Secretary Ricardo Llerandi; Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira; and Elías Sánchez, who once worked on the board overseeing the country’s bankruptcy, according to news reports.
Of the men, Rivera Marín, Sobrino, Bermúdez and Miranda have resigned or been fired, and Llerandi has tendered his resignation.
Mark-Viverito traveled to Puerto Rico to join demonstrators calling for Rosselló’s resignation. Other Puerto Rican artists — like Lin Manuel Miranda and Benito A. Martínez Ocasio, known as Bad Bunny — have voiced their support of the protests.
Rosselló addressed the nation Tuesday with a “message to the people of Puerto Rico,” acknowledging and apologizing for the “inappropriate” messages.
“We will make changes — no doubt,” he said during the news conference. “I’ve made the determination that I have to keep my promise and continue to work to do the job that the public has trusted me to do.”