The last decade in Puerto Rico has been a constant stream of disaster and oppression, from the U.S. government’s unelected fiscal control board and the austerity it imposed on the territory to Hurricane Maria and that same government’s utter failure in recovery efforts in its aftermath.
Now the island has been hit with a corruption scandal, which saw the arrest of six high-ranking officials in the government of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. And then came the publication of hundreds of text messages by the Puerto Rican investigative journalism outfit CPI. In the texts, Rosselló and other top officials joked about murdering San Juan Mayor Carmen Yúlin Cruz and referred to former New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito as a “whore,” in addition to homophobic jokes and jokes about dead bodies piling up after the hurricane.
In the wake of all this, the people of Puerto Rico have just about reached their breaking point. Days of protests reached a boiling point last night, as protesters reportedly broke through a barricade at the governor’s mansion. Police responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd, according to Puerto Rican news outlet El Nuevo Dia. San Juan police commissioner Henry Escalera told the outlet that 16 people were injured and seven were arrested.
The protests came on the same day that Puerto Rican artists Bad Bunny, Residente, and iLe released a song, whose name in English translates to “Sharpening the Knives,” aimed at Rosselló and corruption on the island. Rosselló has so far refused to resign amid calls from Puerto Rican celebrities like Ricky Martin—who was the subject of a homophobic joke in those text messages—Bad Bunny, and several baseball figures, including Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora, to do so. Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Congress, Jenniffer González, has also said that Rosselló should not stand for re-election next year as he plans to.
So far, Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez hasn’t joined those calls for Rosselló to step down. (Rosselló’s American political affiliation is with the Democratic Party, although political parties in Puerto Rico are divided mostly along lines on the question of statehood. Perez was also referenced in the texts, with the slur aimed at Mark-Viverito coming after she denounced Perez’s support of statehood for Puerto Rico.) Yesterday, Perez sent a brief written statement to El Nuevo Dia expressing his disappointment at Rosselló’s comments but stressing that he had already apologized.
An attempt to reach the DNC for comment by phone on Thursday went to voicemail. We will update if and when there’s a response.