PR Protests Columbus Circle

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Hundreds Rally In New York Demanding Puerto Rico Governor Resigns

July 22, 2019 - 7:00 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) — Waving flags, chanting and banging pots and pans, hundreds of people took to the streets in New York City to demand the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in a crisis triggered by a leak of offensive, obscenity-laden chat messages between him and his advisers.

The crowd in New York gathered in Columbus Circle as thousands took to the streets in Puerto Rico. That demonstration appeared to be the biggest protest on the island in nearly two decades.

The protest came 10 days after the leak of 889 pages of online chats in which Rosselló and some of his close aides insulted women and mocked constituents, including victims of Hurricane Maria.

In New York, those who were from the island and still have family there told WCBS 880’s Mack Rosenberg that they were disgusted by the leak.

“People in Puerto Rico have been suffering a lot, especially through Hurricane Maria and I’m just here to support them in solidarity,” said Damali Gonzalez, from Staten Island.

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.

“It's very clear that this is the time that it has to end and it's gonna be a new day for Puerto Rico,” said Miguel Correa.

In an interview Monday with Fox News, Rosselló said that he will not resign and that he is focused on tackling corruption and helping the island recover from Maria.

"I'm making amends," he said. "I've apologized for all the comments that I made on the chat."

On Sunday evening, Rosselló, a Democrat, sought to calm the unrest by promising not to seek re-election in 2020 or continue as head of his pro-statehood New Progressive 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."

Asked who was advising Rosselló on staying in office, Rosselló's secretary of public affairs, Anthony Maceira, said the governor was speaking with his family, and "that carries a great weight." Rosselló's father, Pedro, was governor from 1993 to 2001.

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.

The crisis has stirred fears about the effects on the already fragile economy.

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.

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

(© 2019 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)