Puerto Rico official’s leaked chats among various issues sparking protests

Latin America

Demonstrators march on Las Americas highway demanding the resignation of governor Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Monday, July 22, 2019. Protesters are demanding Rossello step down for his involvement in a private chat in which he used profanities to describe an ex-New York City councilwoman and a federal control board overseeing the island’s finance. (AP Photo/Gianfranco Gaglione)

A judge in Puerto Rico has issued search warrants for the cellphones of the embattled Governor Ricardo Rossello and his aides. Last week, their online chats – filled with crude and offensive language – were leaked online.

The warrants follow Monday’s massive protests demanding the Governor’s resignation. Puerto Rico’s political crisis is also linked to the island’s deteriorating economy.

CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reported on the factors sparking the protests.

Aide Pacheco had been living in a public housing project for the past forty years. The last time it had some improvements done was in 1996, she said. A few weeks ago some builders showed up.

“But it’s just a facelift, they are not fixing anything inside. They want the outside to look good, but water leaks through all the apartments,” Pacheco explained.

The 58-year-old grandmother voted for Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico, who was being asked by his New Progressive party and a large majority of the people on the island to resign. “I believed in his promises, and when all this mess started I was reluctant to believe it, but as time went by I understood how bad it is,” she admitted.

Many believed that Rossello could turn the economy around and get Puerto Rico on a road to recovery after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. But it did not happen. Corruption scandals plagued his cabinet, instead.

The island was recovering from the disaster, but at a painfully slow pace. The infrastructure had been neglected. That’s why many asked where were the billions of dollars allocated for Puerto Rico’s recovery. “The Congress of the United States handed them 92 two billion dollars,” U.S. President Donald Trump said. “And that $92 billion is in the hands of incompetent people and very corrupt people. But the governor has done a terrible job.”

One reason people like Aide hadn’t seen much progress was that Congress only allocated $42.5 billion for disaster relief. And the island has received less than $14 billion through May according to federal data.

The bulk of aid remained in Washington. Officials were required to submit plans on how the money will be used in order to get federal approval. “The disbursement of the funds will take longer, as this administration has no credibility whatsoever with the federal government,” Antonio Fernos, Associate Professor of Economics at Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, said.

Even the public schools were short in funds. Aide complained to me about the supplies’ list for her grandson’s next school year. And that they were asked to bring towel paper, toilette paper, even cleaning wipes, to the school.