Corruption, Telegram scandals roil Rosselló administration
The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, is refusing to step down amid scandals involving text messaging and corruption. Some top Puerto Rican officials have already resigned amid the outcry, which is so tremendous that demonstrations against Rosselló have grown violent. Federal officials have also begun to chime in, with Representative Raul Grijalva (D) of Arizona calling on the Governor to resign.
The Representative’s call for resignation is a big deal, because Grijalva chairs the House committee which oversees the US territory of Puerto Rico. Congress can’t depose Rosselló outright, but does hold power over Puerto Rico in other ways similar to how the Federal government controls things in mainland US.
The governor is embroiled in scandal because of a group text message which leaked, dubbed Telegramgate in social media, containing sexist, profane, and homophobic language. Almost one thousand pages of texts leaked, and in them is a steady stream of memes and disparaging comments.
The texts include joking about shooting Carmen Yulin (PDP), the mayor of San Juan and who some consider a close friend of Representative Grijalva, and calling a New York politician of Puerto Rican descent a “whore.”
Additionally, the text messages leaked show that the governor fixed and manipulated political polls to advance his administration, according to the Center for Investigative Journalism of Puerto Rico. This corruption issue has raised concerns on Capitol Hill about sending Federal aid money for disaster relief. Those calling for Rosselló’s resignation assert that the texts reveal that he is corrupt and violated the trust of citizens by what he said.
The governor is also under fire due to an indictment against several former officials in his administration, including former Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher. The charges include wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracies. There is a lot of anger over two of his administration officials awarding $15 million worth of “sweetheart contracts” to their friends and political allies.
Leadership in the Puerto Rican Legislative does not consider impeachment to be on the table yet, but is giving him one week to meet with mayors and legislators and prove he is still fit to be governor. Meanwhile, mayor protests are ongoing in the capital San Juan, across the territory, and in several cities of the United States calling for the Governor’s resignation.