Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have taken to the streets to demand the resignation of the island nation’s Governor, Ricardo Rossello. The reasons stem from a series of failures and perceived failures rather than a single dramatic incident.
The first reason is simple politics. Rossello was elected with about 42% of the vote in 2016, beating his nearest competitor by only three percentage points. After the close race, the opposition was disinclined to view him favorably.
One of the key platform planks of Rossello’s party, the New Progressive Party, is to seek statehood within the U.S.. To that end, he attempted to forge strong positive ties with the United States President, Donald Trump.
Less than a year into the new administration, Hurricane Maria struck the island, wreaking devastation. His relationship with Trump, who repeatedly called for less money to be spent on the rebuilding efforts and hinted at malfeasance, became a political problem. Many Puerto Ricans felt that Trump was treating them poorly, and Rossello caught the brunt of those emotions, seeing his favorability decline.
The continued slow pace of repair has further damaged his leadership. The Trump administration delayed sending new funding to the island, under the guise of fiscal responsibility. It also launched investigations into possible misuse of funds.
A long investigation did produce a kickback scandal, but it was comparatively minor; the investigation demonstrated that less than 1% of the money sent had been improperly used. Nevertheless, even though it disproved Trump’s suspicions, it further added to Rossello’s woes as Cabinet members were demonstrated to be corrupt.
Protests began in earnest shortly afterward, as private e-mails between government officials were made public. The e-mails, provided by Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, are seen as dismissive and insulting to many in the general populace of Puerto Rico and, due to casual use of slurs, have given activist groups an excuse to rally against hate speech.
The protests have increased in magnitude as Rossello has failed to adequately address them, and again after the budget deal announced yesterday… a budget deal which demonstrates that spending and fiscal responsibility were not actually concerns of the Trump administration, adding fuel to the allegations that the slow response was motivated by nativism and racism.
The beneficiary of Rossello’s woes is likely to be San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s statements regarding the nation and who, earlier this year, announced her candidacy for Governor. The political effects in the U.S. are likely to be worse relations with Puerto Rico and significant damage to the long-term efforts to incorporate the nation as the fifty-first state.