The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, has resigned after two weeks of massive protests and intergenerational civil unrest. In the abscence of a secretary of state, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez will become governor. Rosselló's resignation is effective as of 5:00 p. m. on August 2.
This self-convened and growing national movement erupted as a result of an intricate corruption scheme and a leaked Telegram chat containing sexist, misogynistic, homophobic and body-shaming language, along with the discussion of public policy among members and non-members of Rosselló's cabinet.
The leaked Telegram chat was preceded by the federal arrests of high ranking members of Rosselló's administration, including the former Secretary of Education, Julia Keleher, on charges which include money laundering, wire fraud and theft, among others.
The 14 consecutive days of demonstrations included daily protests at the governor’s mansion. The protests soon spread to many other municipalities of Puerto Rico. The largest was held on July 22, estimated to have attracted as many as 600,000 people in San Juan alone.
#FunFact of this march in #PuertoRico. It wasn’t scheduled by any organization. It happened organically in social media by #PuertoRicans who wanted to protest against #Rosselló, demanding his resignation. #ParoNacional #News #ParoNacionalPR #RickyRenuncia ?:@NoticentroWAPA pic.twitter.com/gpLBXPhbPY
— Cristina Corujo (@cristina_corujo) July 22, 2019
But the activity wasn't limited to Puerto Rico. Several protests were convened in countries where Puerto Ricans are resident, including Spain, Argentina, Slovenia, France, The Netherlands and the United States.
The protests also included cultural and artistic interventions. Journalist Victoria Leandra created a Twitter thread that highlights some of the creative ways Puerto Ricans found to protest:
??THREAD: All the original ways in which Puerto Ricans have said #RickyRenuncia
— Victoria Leandra (@leandrareports) July 20, 2019
The police have been accused of using excessive force, violating the police reforms ordered by Federal Courts. It must be said that the protests in Puerto Rico have been exceptionally peaceful, as pointed out by cultural anthropologist and essayist Rima Brusi on Twitter:
500000 marching, and only five arrests, at the very end? I’d say the protesters were not only non-violent- they were remarkably disciplined, creative and restrained. #RickyRenunciaYa pic.twitter.com/T1DyXaJRHQ
— Rima Brusi (@RimaBrusi) July 19, 2019
Protesters also returned the following day to areas where protests were held to help clean up:
Things they won’t show you in the media because they want you to think the worse:
1- people cleaning the damage done last night
2- a united people giving each other a hand pic.twitter.com/Q0hBD7HYCP
— next latina to accept an EGOT ?? (@TheJosieMarie) July 16, 2019
But several days before the news broke of Rosselló's resignation, Xiomara Torres Rivera, a columnist writing for the jounalism project Todas, reminded readers that the real work would start once the governor left office:
Hoy somos foco de atención porque nos atrevimos a accionar la palabra, a transformar nuestros disgustos en movilidad. La exigencia de renuncia es solo el principio. Nos queda un camino largo de reflexión para tomar otras decisiones y no mirar atrás. Para atrevernos a exigir el país que nos merecemos. Una auditoría ciudadana, una cancelación de la deuda, una educación con perspectiva de género, un sistema de salud y retiro digno y un esquema de gobierno con personas que pongan las necesidades de la gente primero. Se nos va la vida y no estamos dispuestas a perder una más.
Today we are the focus of the world's attention because we dared to turn words into action, to transform our anger into mobility. To demand [the governor's] resignation is only the beginning. We have before us a lot of reflecting to do to be able to take other decisions and not look back. To dare to demand the country that we deserve. A citizen audit, a cancellation of the [public] debt, an education with gender perspective, decent healthcare and retirement and a government with individuals who put the needs of the people first.
Global Voices will continue to cover this developing story.