Police fire teargas to break up massive protests demanding Puerto Rico governor resign

People chant slogans as they wave Puerto Rican flags during a protest calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello in San Juan, Puerto Rico July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Police in San Juan fired tear gas on Monday night to disperse thousands of protestors demanding Puerto Rico’s governor resign over offensive chat messages, the latest scandal to hit a bankrupt island struggling to recover from 2017 hurricanes.

Police moved in at around 11 p.m. to break up protestors still on the streets of San Juan’s old city following day-long demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of residents, according to tweets and videos from the scene.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló on Sunday said he would not seek re-election next year and would step down as head of the New Progressive Party but the concessions failed to appease demonstrators, who called for him to immediately surrender the governorship.

The island’s largest newspaper called on the first-term governor to leave office and reported over 500,000 protesters took to the streets of San Juan.

U.S. President Donald Trump also blasted the 40-year-old governor, who is affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party. “He’s a terrible governor,” Trump said at the White House on Monday, after feuding with Rosselló in 2017 over the speed and scale of the federal response to Hurricane Maria. “You have totally grossly incompetent leadership at the top of Puerto Rico,” he said.

In San Juan, demonstrators dressed in black T-shirts filled the city’s largest highway and marched in the pouring rain with celebrities like Ricky Martin and Reggaeton star Daddy Yankee in the 10th day of sometimes violent protests.

“Despacito” singer Daddy Yankee was among protesters who headed to San Juan’s old city where they demonstrated in front of police and orange plastic barriers near the governor’s official residence, a mansion known as “The Fortress.”

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, an opposition politician running for governor in 2020, said Rosselló had run out of time. “The country can’t put up with this anymore,” Yulin Cruz said in a video posted from protests, wearing a black T-shirt with the message “The power is in the street.”

Rosselló on Monday again asked Puerto Ricans to give him another chance.

Protests have brought together Puerto Ricans from different political parties, and non-political islanders to vent anger at alleged corruption in the administration and its handling of hurricane recovery efforts.

“The only good thing you did was to unite the people,” read a placard held by a protester in San Juan’s old city.