Today, after a week of protests outside the Governor’s mansion Fortaleza, hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico are participating in a National Strike to demand the resignation of Governor Ricardo Roselló. An estimated 750,000 people mobilized on the streets in the capital San Juan. Protesters have given Rosselló or “Ricky” until midnight tonight to resign from his position.
The latest wave of protests was sparked the arrests of government officials on corruption charges and by the leak of a group chat between Rosselló and his political advisors, which revealed sexist, homophobic and insensitive comments. However, the anger and indignation felt by the Puerto Rican people has much deeper roots, like Puerto Rico’s colonial status, the harsh austerity measures imposed by an exterior board as well as the government neglect and corruption following the devastating Hurricane María. As such, many collectives and social movements in Puerto Rico are demanding much more than the renouncement of one corrupt, misogynist politician.
The Puerto Rican social movement Jornada: Se Acabaron Las Promesas wrote on their Facebook: “We join the clear demand of the people and we demand the immediate resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló…However this is not enough. Ricky can go, but what are we left with, another round of the Popular [party]? With the colonial dictatorship of the Fiscal Control Board that seeks to destroy our health, education and lives to pay a debt that we did not create? It is time to imagine new forms of governing and living in this island.”
Jornada was created in 2016 when the PROMESA Law (Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act) was passed. It has been educating people about the multi-pronged colonial domination suffered by Puerto Rico and organizing people against it.
Stephanie Nieves Ríos, a social worker and community organizer at the Central for Mutual Support, the “Olla Común”, explained to Peoples Dispatch “In Puerto Rico we have been through so much in the last couple of years. Since 2016 we have a Fiscal Control Board imposed on us with absolute economic power, and power to change our budget. This board has closed our schools, made cuts to the universities, increased taxes, is attacking pensions, has taken away labor rights, and has done all of this to pay a debt, a supposed public debt caused by the same people who are being accused [of corruption] now!”
Nieves Ríos highlighted that “While the people may not completely understand the board, they know what is happening. They feel it in their day to day lives because they have been left without a home, without employment, because the schools of their children are being closed. And while all of this is happening, while we are hit with a hurricane and more than 4,500 people die and the government abandons us, while many communities were left without electricity for almost a year, while all of this happens, the governor is in a chat saying stupid stuff, homophobic and machista comments and this was the straw that broke the camels back.”
As of now, Rosselló has said publicly that while he does not plan to stand for elections next year, he also refuses to step down. However, whatever happens today, is a historic day for Puerto Rico and its people. The fight against colonialism and for a free Puerto Rico has been rejuvenated and will continue forward.