One hundred thousand people flooded the streets of Viejo San Juan Puerto Rico on July 17th. They came out to protest the current Governor for not resigning from his position, all screaming “Ricky Renuncia” into the morning hours…
In this episode we will hear from various people on and off the island about why this moment is significant and why this calls unwanted attention on the relationship between the US and Puerto Rico. More than anything Puerto Ricans want to take back their dignity and identity. Many people who don’t understand the history do not realize that the current situation really speaks more to lack of freedoms. It speaks to something that doesn’t involve party or status of Puerto Rico, but more the psychological impact of years as a modern day colony.
For those who have not been keeping up, after the FBI arrests last week, leaked chats between the governor and his inner circle have led to nonstop protests that people all over are calling historical(see links below). The arrests began on July 10 and the chats came out shortly after, revealing crass, cruel and what some are calling criminal behavior on the part of the governor and his circle. Since then those in the chat have stepped down but not the Governor. David Begnaud with CBS called out the refusal to step down as “tone deaf” during the Press Conference the Governor held, and many also took issue with the Governors claim that independent analysis was done to determine the leaked chats did not reveal any illegal activity – but he refused to name who did the investigation.
As you can only imagine, Puerto Ricans on the island and across the world are furious and feeling a lot of pain as they are reminded yet again of the deaths resulting from the corruption and the negligence by this Governor and the US as well.
It was important to me, to capture the voices of the people in this moment, because there are few spaces or news outlets that really capture what the average Puerto Rican is feeling, let alone any interviews done by women of color in the very white male and uninformed media space. I can’t tell you how often I end up rolling my eyes when we hear coverage about what Puerto Ricans have been experiencing for over a century… and it’s clear from the thousands of people that came out, that they are also tired of hearing a narrative that doesn’t represent their struggle.
The protests will likely continue until the Governor resigns but there are also questions about what happens if Trump steps in or whether the people will be able to choose someone that does represent them, rather than a new Ricky. What is certain is that if the US intervenes and replaces the Governor, rather than allowing the people to choose for themselves, the colonial nature of the Island will be laid bare in ways it hasn’t in over 50 years.
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My first interview with Carla Cavina is in spanish so I am providing a short description below:
Carla states: The people are tired of the way the governor handled not just the Hurricane but the way he has worked to dismantle the Public university, labor rights, the Health system, and Public Schools.
Rossello even put his full support behind former Secretary of Education Julia Keleher who was arrested by the FBI last week. Carla says that people on the island described Keleher as always disrespecting the people in every interview or public forum while she was committing fraud right under their noses with money meant for the children of Puerto Rico.
Carla stated that fury people are feeling is not so much the language or profanity in the chats but the fact that the chats showed what a bully Rossello really was, in attacking women, the LGBTQ community and coordinating to undermine Puerto Rican media stories that did not suit him or painted his office in a bad light. He threatened and manipulated the news in ways the people only suspected.
Carla goes on to say that it isn’t an issue of forgiveness it’s about the fact that the Governor lost credibility so he cannot govern anymore.
She stated that people have been holding on to this anger for a long time because they knew something was going on but there was no proof but finally there is proof. It was infuriating to Carla reading in the chats of Rossello’s inner circle make fun of the dead after the hurricane, and she states he appears to withhold funds for survivors of the hurricane so he could give government contracts to buddies. She stated she feels he probably came away with deals from those contracts that benefited him financially.
Carla stated that this is why she is so indignant but feels so proud of her country because they are awake and are not stopping until Rossello leaves office.
When I asked how all the protests are going, how everything affected her she said this affects your everyday life but she said even her own father who is a statehood supporter came out to protest because he felt the governor insulted the people. And she stated she’s seeing people come out she has never seen protest before.
She also noted there’s many other cities in Puerto Rico coming out to protest. She said it was similar to the protests in the island of Vieques.
As to why this is a historic protest, besides all the protests, she states the Diaspora, those Puerto Ricans living in the states, have been crucial.
On the question of why these protests are happening now versus after the Hurricane, she noted that people were simply trying to survive before but now after 2 years they are rising.
Carla says the people feel the governor took advantage of their vulnerability to build his wealth, his robbery, his lies as he joked about them in those chats.
She lastly noted that we should not pay attention about supposed “violence” by protesters because those are distractions from the real conversation. She notes that the police are armed with plastic bullets while protesters only have water bottles.
She even mentions a protester that stood in front of police to defend them and ask people to stop throwing bottles but she got shot with rubber bullets twice from behind for standing in front of them facing the crowd.
And she stated that there’s nothing more violent than what this Governor and his people have done to our people.
Carla feels that most people died because of the lack of electricity, and that the Governor was directly responsible for those services not being available. Carla’s analysis of the coordination of efforts by the Governor and his office: he was having a party while people were starving.
She says of the thousands of protestors: People are responding with dignity not with violence.
Latest from CBS
Crimes suspected in Governor Rossello’s Leaked Chats
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Public Funds discussed in the chats
Twitter trends with #RickyRenuncia
iLe Residente Bad Bunny Afliando los cuchillos