Calls For Puerto Rico Gov. Rossello To Resign Over Profane Private Chats
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now to Puerto Rico, where Governor Ricardo Rossello is facing calls to resign, this after six people, including two top former officials, were arrested last Wednesday on federal fraud charges. Then yesterday, private text messages were published showing the governor and members of his inner circle using misogynistic, homophobic and insulting language to talk about political opponents. Yesterday, most of that inner circle did step down. But prominent figures as well as local demonstrators are saying the governor also needs to leave.
To talk about what's going on, we're joined by Adrian Florido from NPR's Code Switch team. He spent much of the past two years reporting from Puerto Rico, and he just got back to San Juan, and he's joining us from there.
Adrian, thanks so much for joining us.
ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Michel.
MARTIN: And I understand that you were outside the governor's mansion earlier. What did you see there?
FLORIDO: Yeah, that's right. I mean, there were just - there were furious protesters who arrived there last night to demand the governor's resignation. And many of them camped out overnight, started protesting again this morning, and the protests have gone on into this afternoon and are going to continue for days, apparently.
MARTIN: So walk us through this. I mean, how did the governor get into this mess?
FLORIDO: Well, the governor's had a really bad couple of weeks. And especially, you know, the last week has been really bad because the FBI, as you alluded to earlier, arrested two former top officials within his administration and accused them of steering lucrative contracts to personal friends or people who had ties to the governor's party. Those federal charges so harmed the governor's image that he actually had to cut short a European vacation and decided to fly home to deal with the fallout. And then when he got back, things started getting worse because someone within his government started leaking these very damaging private text messages.
MARTIN: Would you tell me about those text messages? What did they say?
FLORIDO: Well, these text messages were between Governor Rossello and several members of his inner circle, including members of his cabinet. And what you see in these text messages is that these men - and they were all men - they used misogynistic language to refer to women who have maybe criticized the governor or who he doesn't disagree with. They use homophobic language. They insult journalists. They talk about how to manipulate public opinion polls. In one case, one of the governor's advisers even makes a joke about the hurricane dead.
And so someone within the administration had been leaking these page by page over the last several days. And then yesterday, the local center for investigative journalism obtained and published all 900 pages of these text messages. And the outcry today has just been enormous.
MARTIN: And when you say that these are misogynistic messages, you know, could you just give us a sense of just - you know, how bad is it, basically?
FLORIDO: Well, in one instance, the governor called the former president of New York's city council, Melissa Mark-Viverito - he called her a whore after she tweeted something that he disagreed with.
MARTIN: Well, what's been the reaction to this? And, first of all, what has the governor said about all of this since he has returned from his vacation to address it?
FLORIDO: He apologized for the messages and essentially blamed the fact that he worked really long days and often used this group chat to - as he said, you know, relieve stress. That did not sit well with people, obviously. He ended up, like you said, having to ask most of his inner circle to step down. But that has not appeased anyone. The outcry and the demands for his resignation have only grown. Not only from his political opponents - also, essentially everyone within his own party here in Puerto Rico has abandoned him. And now there is talk within the legislature of beginning the process of removing him from office if he doesn't step down on his own.
MARTIN: And has he said that he is considering it? Or what is he saying about that possibility?
FLORIDO: No, he's basically dug his feet in and has said he is not going to resign. He said he was, you know, elected governor by the people of Puerto Rico, feels like he has a lot of work to do and intends to continue doing it. A big question is obviously how because he has lost the confidence of everyone within his government, and no one really sees him having the capital needed to govern.
MARTIN: That is NPR's Adrian Florido joining us from San Juan.
Adrian, thanks so much for talking to us.
FLORIDO: Thanks, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.