Disclosed chat contents spark widespread condemnation of Puerto Rico governor | El Nuevo Día

Following the Saturday morning leak of a 889-page group chat between Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló and some of his closest collaborators, reactions have been swift among the island’s political class, with opposition leaders and fellow members of the New Progressive Party (NPP) almost universally condemning the contents of the explosive document and calling for Rosselló’s resignation or “re-evaluation” of his position as governor. 

The document —which details conversations made through the messaging app Telegram from late 2018 to January 20 of this year— is filled with profanity-laced, misogynistic, homophobic, and sexual comments from Rosselló and other members of the group attacking opposition leaders, fellow party members, journalists and activist groups. The conversation also reveals efforts to manipulate public perception of the administration through public polls and a so-called “troll network” on social media. 

As a result of the controversy, the government’s chief financial officer and the local government’s representative at the Fiscal Oversight Board, Christian Sobrino, resigned from all government positions on Saturday afternoon. Sobrino was the source of some of the most damning remarks in the chat group document, including making light of the crisis at the state-run forensics center, where a lack of resources has resulted in a months-long backlog of bodies at the facility.  

Later in the day, Rossellóannounced the firing of all of the participants in the chat from their respective government positions, with the exception of his chief of staff, Ricardo Llerandi, and Fortaleza public affairs secretary Anthony Maceira. State secretary and interim governor Luis Gerardo Rivera Marín also stepped down from his position.

Among those censuring the governor was resident commissioner in Washington and Rosselló’s running mate in the 2016 elections, Jenniffer González, who remarked that Rosselló should not run for reelection in 2020 in light of the scandal. “He should reflect deeply about his role as governor”, González said, adding that she canceled a contract that her office had with Carlos Bermúdez, a public relations executive who, apart from being her long-time press relations officer, also participated in the chat. Later, Bermúdez also resigned from his position as advisor to the governor.

Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz and House speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, both from the NPP, also criticized the governor and the rest of the chat’s participants, which among others included former Rosselló gubernatorial campaign manager Elías Sánchez, chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi, and Edwin Miranda, a publicist and owner of KOI, a local advertising firm with close ties to the Rosselló administration.

In a social media post, Rivera Schatz, who was the target of insults in the chat, among many others, called for the resignation of all of its participants. “They must go,” he wrote, although he had accepted Rosselló’s apology regarding the controversy on Friday. “The contents expressed (in the chat) do not represent my party or our people.” Meanwhile, Méndez, who was also the subject of insults in the chat, said he would no longer support Rosselló and added that the governor “should immediately reevaluate his role and do what’s best for Puerto Rico.”

Some of the harshest words came from Popular Democratic Party (PPD) senator Eduardo Bhatia, who was the subject of homophobic remarks throughout the chat. “There’s no name (that can describe) you or the pack of charlatans who crave power, but don’t govern,” Bhatia said, adding, “it is evident that they are cowards, mercenaries and people of the lowest order. They use power to destroy families and reputations. That is illegal, immoral and a betrayal of everyone to their positions and to Puerto Rico.” 

In remarks directed straight at Rosselló, Bhatia went on. “Resign and end this embarrassment in which you have put Puerto Rico on the international stage, where we are singled out as corrupt thanks to your actions and those of your mafia.” 

The rest of the local political figures who have expressed deep disapproval of the chat’s contents during the past few days include San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Puerto Rico Independence Party Senator Juan Dalmau, NPP senators ZoéLaboy and Evelyn Vázquez, among many others, while stateside, U.S. Representative and chair on the Natural Resources Committee in the House, Raúl Grijalva, has also called for Rosselló’s resignation.