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Protesters Demand Puerto Rican Governor's Resignation Following Leaked Messages

Police units protect the area near the executive mansion from protesters demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 15, 2019.

Protests against Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló continued Monday for a third day as the embattled politician faces calls for his resignation, following the release of personal correspondence with his allies.

Protest began on Saturday after Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism published 889 pages of chats between Rosselló and nine other men in his administration. Many of the messages were vulgar in content, with Rosselló and his colleagues repeatedly using slurs and making derogatory comments about individuals, including political rivals and celebrities.

Rosselló was a member of a group chat on the encrypted messaging app Telegram that included numerous members of his administration, including his secretary of state, interior secretary, and public affairs secretary. Also in the group were finance and communications officials who were allied with the governor.

In one exchange, former chief financial officer Christian Sobrino said he would like to shoot San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

Rosselló told Sobrino "You'd be doing me a grand favor."

In another exchange, Rosselló made derogatory comments about a female New York politician with Puerto Rican heritage.

Members also made multiple anti-gay comments about Puerto Rican celebrity Ricky Martin.

Five of the men involved in the group chat were either fired or tendered their resignations following the release of the messages.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello speaks during a press conference in La Fortaleza's Tea Room, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 16, 2019.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello speaks during a press conference in La Fortaleza's Tea Room, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 16, 2019.

Referred to as "Rickyleaks" and "Chatgate," many saw the release of the chats as the latest episode in a longer series of government impropriety. Days prior to the release of the messages, two former Puerto Rican officials had been arrested on corruption charges, allegedly having misuses $15.5 million of federal funds. Frustrations also linger over the governor's response to Hurricane Maria.

"The chat was the final straw" said Norma Jean Colberg, a 58-year-old protester, in a comment to The New York Times.

Protests, which have carried on since the release of the chats on Saturday, have resulted in at least three arrests so far, according to police commissioner Henry Escalera.

Protesters had gathered outside the presidential mansion on Monday and had been met with rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray.

According to Escalera, protesters had set fire to trash cans that served as a buffer between demonstrators and police,

Rosselló had not been in the mansion at the time of the protests on Monday, however he released a comment calling the protests "an expression that I respect and very much keep in mind."

The governor condemned the property damage and confrontations, however, that took place during the protests.

"There are many other ways to be heard," he reinforced.

Legislation was introduced in Puerto Rico's house of representatives to impeach Rosselló, although both houses of the territory's legislature are controlled by the governor's party.

Beatriz Rosselló, the wife of the governor, released a statement, calling for her husband to be forgiven.

"He made a mistake, understood that and immediately apologized."

In a radio interview, the embattled governor recognized the effect the messengers had on himself and Puerto Rico.

"We are all bruised — I'm bruised — but I recognize it, and I have to get back up," he said.