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Puerto Ricans press for Gov. Rossello's resignation ahead of major protest Monday

Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Alexa Padilla stood near the Puerto Rico governor's official residence, a historic 16th century structure known as La Fortaleza, on Saturday checking her phone for any word on whether Ricardo Rossello would resign.

Nothing.

"It feels like torture," said the 17-year-old, who traveled an hour from Arecibo with her father and friend to attend a rally in San Juan, the capital, to protest Rossello and corruption.

The governor must resign, she said.

Rossello has apologized, but refused to step down following widespread outrage over leaked messages between him and several of his top aides, in which the men used homophobic and sexist language and joked about the cadavers that accumulated after Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in September 2017.

A major demonstration is expected Monday, perhaps even larger than those held during the past week that drew thousands of people to the city's cobblestoned streets. Scores of politicians, including the U.S. commonwealth's non-voting member of Congress, have called for Rossello to step down.

 

Many of the protesters -- lawyers and street cleaners, grandmothers and government employees -- said they'd attended the gatherings out of anger, but left feeling deep pride. The movement was about righteous indignation, they said, a forceful repudiation of corruption, misogyny, homophobia and economic inequalities.

Alberto Camacho, a filmmaker who lives in San Juan, said he has been amazed by the level of activism he's seen in recent days from Puerto Ricans, who are U.S. citizens at birth, on the island, the mainland and abroad.

"What I have seen recently is the most impressive event in my life as an activist in Puerto Rico," said Camacho, 36, noting demonstrations in various cities that often included the hashtag #RickyRenuncia, which uses a nickname for the governor and calls on him to resign.

"We're standing up together," said Damaris Olivo, 48, who took a quick break from her job tidying the city's streets to watch the protesters dancing.

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