Images circulating social media over the past 24 hours in Puerto Rico reveal widespread protests calling for the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. The protests come as a result of the release of at least 889 pages from the governor’s private chat that revealed Rosselló spewing deeply problematic comments. The scandal has been dubbed “Chatgate.”
This comes only a week after two of his former officials were arrested by the FBI on corruption charges.
According to TIME, “The scandal that is threatening to buckle the boyish 40-year-old governor centers on a profanity-laced and at times misogynistic online chat with nine other male members of his administration in which some of the U.S. territory’s most powerful men act like a bunch of teenagers.”
Tonight’s protest calling for the resignation of Puerto Rico Governor @ricardorossello is the biggest demonstration many people here say they’ve seen in many years. It stretches for blocks in several directions outside his residence. pic.twitter.com/daVARUdfy0
— Adrian Florido (@adrianflorido) July 15, 2019
In the leaked conversations had on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, Rosselló made homophobic and misogynistic comments.
“She’s off her meds,” says Rosselló in the leaked messages, referring to Mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz.
He then continues, saying, “Either that, or she’s a tremendous HP.” Meaning “son/daughter of a bitch” in Spanish.
Dozens of pages were unearthed and shared with two local outlets. On Saturday, the pages were published by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism.
The group involved in “Chatgate” reportedly includes Luis Rivera Marín, the governor’s secretary of state; Christian Sobrino, former chief financial officer; Carlos Bermúdez, a one-time communications aide; Edwin Miranda, a communications consultant; Interior Secretary Ricardo Llerandi; Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira and Elías Sánchez, one-time representative to the board surveying Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy.
In another conversation, the men refer to former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito as a “whore” in Spanish.
One member refers to the head of the federal oversight board a “kitten,” while another man jokes that a female member of Puerto Rico’s senate belonged in a “whorehouse.”
The conversations also include inappropriate, homophobic statements regarding pop star Ricky Martin. Martin has since tweeted about the comments saying, “Do an act of true generosity, worth and love for Puerto Rico and give your position to another person with the wisdom and leadership to direct your destiny as a people.”
Precisamente porque sus comentarios fueron hechos en la intimidad queda demostrado de que esta hecho. Es en la intimidad donde se vive con la verdad e integridad que nos define y la suya esta lejos de ser una vertical y admirable.
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) July 13, 2019
He added in another tweet, “Precisely because your comments were made in private [shows] what you are [capable] of. It is in the privacy [of] where you live with the truth and integrity that defines us and yours is far from being […] admirable.”
Other Puerto Rican artists also asked for the resignation of Rosselló following “Chatgate.”
Well-known Boriquas like Benito A. Martínez Ocasio, better known as Bad Bunny, and René Pérez, known as Residente, took to social media to stand in solidarity with protestors, even saying they planned to join them.
Nos vemos allá 🇵🇷✊ https://t.co/PiFRgP38wO
— Residente (@Residente) July 15, 2019
The scandal erupted the day after former Secretary of Education Julia Keleher and five others were arrested by the FBI and charged with 32 counts of fraud and related charges. The crime involved conspiring to award a contract from the Puerto Rico Department of Education to a consulting firm owned by the sister of one of Keleher’s assistants. This was despite being warned that the firm was unqualified. The alleged fraud totals $15.5 million in federal funding.
After news of “Chatgate” broke, thousands of residents took to the streets, protesting outside of the governor’s San Juan residence demanding his resignation. On Monday night, the third consecutive day of protests, police fired tear gas into the growing crowd. Police commissioner Henry Escalera informed reporters that some protestors threw bottles and tear gas at Rosselló’s home. There are no plans to impeach Rosselló and the 40-year-old governor will not step down.