Puerto Rico is a beautiful Caribbean island, an unincorporated US territory, with an eye-catching scenery of mountains, waterfalls, and the El Yunque tropical rainforest. However, the government there has been facing backlash for quite some time now. It has come to the point that hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Puerto Rico to demand the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. His profane private messages were leaked on the 13th of July, which triggered a spontaneous eruption of protests across the U.S. territory. The chat contained 880 pages of exchanges between the governor and 11 male allies. The messages were sexist, profane and homophobic comments. Initially, Rosselló refused to step down from the governorship.
According to Amílcar Barreto, a professor of cultures, societies, and global studies at the Northeastern University who studies politics in Puerto Rico, Rosselló’s resignation won’t solve Puerto Rico’s problems. The challenges presented by Hurricane Maria, rampant corruption among top leaders in the government, and the ongoing financial crisis in Puerto Rico have created a dire situation in the U.S. territory that will eventually lead hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to leave for the mainland. For a long time, Puerto Ricans have been frustrated. The island has been bankrupt since May 2017. Hurricane Maria, which struck in September 2017, devastated the island and killed over 4,000 people. Again recently, federal authorities arrested and charged six top officials within the Puerto Rican government for steering $15.5 million in federal contracts to politically connected consultants.
The protests included Puerto Ricans from all walks of life, all sorts of political persuasions, and even members of Rosselló’s own political party. It was just a sea of humanity. “The steering wheel is in the hands of the federal government. The federal government basically stripped Puerto Rico of its fiscal autonomy, and it’s now in the hands of an appointed fiscal review board over the elected government of Puerto Rico. Ultimately, any way out of this financial pit is going to be down the tracks laid by the federal government,” Barreto concludes.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman