As Puerto Rico continues rebuilding from the devastation of back-to-back hurricanes, bankruptcy, and a fraught relationship with the federal government, a new storm is brewing and the island’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, may be swept away by it.
Calls for the governor to resign have grown after nearly 900 pages of a chat on the private messaging app Telegram were leaked by a source to Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, which published them in their entirety on Saturday. The text messages between Rosselló and 11 of his (male) aides and advisors were petty, crude, and puerile, filled with homophobic and misogynistic slurs about political rivals and Ricky Martin (yes, really). At one point the governor’s chief financial officer appeared to joke about the dead during Hurricane Maria, as The New York Times reports.
The public outcry and political backlash to the leak has been quick and severe. As protestors surrounded the governor’s mansion (despite police using pepper spray and rubber bullets on them), two top officials involved in the chat, including the secretary of state, Luis G. Rivera Marín, resigned over the weekend. Political allies have publicly withdrawn their support for Rosselló’s government, protestors took to the streets in New York City, the #RickyRenuncia (Resign Ricky) hashtag is growing on Twitter, and many of the island’s biggest celebrity endorsers—including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ricky Martin, and Bad Bunny—have called for the governor to step down. So far, though, the governor has refused to leave office.
Rosselló has apologized for what he calls a mistake (guessing he wants to avoid calling it “locker room talk“) and “sought forgiveness” at church, according to El Nuevo Día newspaper. With 18 months left in his term, he refuses to stop the work he started on the island. However, according to the AP, he is considering not seeking reelection in 2020.
This is just the latest scandal to rock Rosselló’s government. Last week, two now-former members of Rosselló’s administration were arrested on fraud charges after awarding $15 million in contracts to friends and political allies.