In the Eye of Another Hurricane: Governance crisis in Puerto Rico
Thousands of people have taken to the streets for a third consecutive day in Puerto Rico demanding the immediate resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello. The protests in the island began after a group chat on the Telegram messaging app between Rossello, and nine other members of his administration were leaked last week. The hundreds of pages of messages revealed obscene, sexist and homophobic remarks about women, journalists, and others, according to the Puerto Rico Centre for Investigative Journalism. Other entries included threats and trolls against political opponents and dissenters. “Ricky resign,” “You have to go,” and “We are not afraid” were some of the slogans shouted by the protesters in San Juan as they gathered during this week outside the governor’s residence, which was protected by barricades.
That sums up to a previous scandal into Rosselló’s administration. Last week, the FBI arrested two of Rossello’s former top officials on fraud charges involving more than $15 million of federal funding. Rosselló’s administration has been under scrutiny for its spending of government funds after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017. “For Puerto Ricans, this has been our Watergate,” said Caribbean scholar Yarimar Bonilla, who writes about post-Hurricane Maria recovery. “The government is distracted thinking about its image, worrying about how they’re being represented in the press instead of attending to matters of the recovery.“
Global Ministries´Partners in the island has expressed their deep concerns on the ability of the Governor to remain in office amid this situation. The Reverend Miguel Antonio Morales-Castro, General Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico, said that “The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico firmly rejects the immoral, corrupt and indecent nature that emerges from the private chat of Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló Nevares. We condemn the acts of corruption that are investigated by the Federal Government and that point to other accusations and arrests shortly. All this dishonors the whole world to those who live on the island. This crisis impedes efficient governance and undermines our image before world markets. So, the everyday people will be the one who will suffer the blow of the consequences, and they have all the right to demand corrective actions by the Governor and the legislative branches.
For his part, the Reverend Edward Rivera Santiago expressly requested the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló through a Communiqué endorsed by the Executive Council of his denomination. In the Communiqué, Reverend Rivera said that “The United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico affirms that our responsibility as leaders is to protect human dignity and promote a healthy community, only if the human rights and dignity of its people are respected. The crisis invites us to a deep reflection on our way of doing politics, of the danger that represents the ideological fanaticism that blinds us and prevents us from choosing the best men and women in the process of shaping our way of governing every four years. We call for the preparation of true electoral reform, free of any partisan influence, leading to an intelligent, participatory electoral process that returns faith, trust and hopes to the people in their democratic institutions.” Finally, Reverend Rivera called the Governor that “for the good of our country and his family, he resigns, with all those involved, to their respective positions. Our prayers accompany you, your family, and all the people.”