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The people of Puerto Rico are angry: Here is what's fueling a major protest planned for Monday

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Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló faces calls to resign after private chats leaked, revealing the men mocking women and victims of Hurricane Maria.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

Anger seething in Puerto Rico is expected to draw thousands to San Juan’s cobble-stoned streets again Monday in an unrelenting push to force the U.S. territory’s governor to step down.

The planned major demonstration follows a week of protests and outrage targeting Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who is embroiled in a scandal over hundreds of pages of leaked text messages that contained misogynistic and homophobic language.  

While he has admitted writing the messages and asked for forgiveness, Rosselló has refused to resign, though he did announce Sunday via a brief Facebook video that he would not seek reelection. He also said he would step down as head of his pro-statehood party.

The texting scandal, informally known as “Chatgate,” erupted a day after Rosselló’s former secretary of education and five other people were arrested on charges of steering federal money to unqualified, politically connected contractors. The private chats between the governor and members of his Cabinet mocked women, disabled people and even victims of Hurricane Maria.

Who is protesting?

Celebrities, such as singer Ricky Martin, have joined ordinary Puerto Ricans swarming outside the governor’s official residence, La Fortaleza, a Spanish colonial fortress in Old San Juan.

On Friday, unionized workers were accompanied by horseback riders outside the fort. Two days earlier, a caravan of thousands of motorcyclists wove through residential streets en route to San Juan.

On Sunday, kayakers made their case from the waters in front of the fort.

Politicians – including  Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress Jenniffer Gonzalez; Sen. Rick Scott of Florida; and New York congresswomen Nydia Velázquez and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez –  have weighed in as well, demanding Rosselló’s resignation.

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda also led a rally in New York’s Union Square calling for the governor to step aside.  

Bikers swarm the city: Motorcyclists descend on Puerto Rican capital, call for Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign

Where is the governor?

Rosselló, 40, the charismatic son of a former governor, has been keeping a low profile and steering clear of the media.

The governor, who maintained a hearty social media presence, would normally start the day by tweeting good morning to followers about 5 a.m. The last such message came on July 8. 

Rosselló’s secretary of public affairs, Anthony Maceira, said Friday that the governor was at his residence working on signing laws and filling posts emptied by the resignations of those caught up in the text scandal.

How bad are some of the messages?

The barbaric nature of some of the language ignited a firestorm in the U.S. territory, especially from a governor viewed as low-keyed, telegenic and down to earth.

Rosselló, the father of two young children, often posts their photos online, along with images of his wife and their two rescue dogs, a Siberian Husky and a Yorkshire Terrier. Rosselló once stopped a press conference to help journalists move equipment out of the rain.

On the encrypted messaging app Telegram, Rosselló calls one New York female politician of Puerto Rican background a “whore,” describes another as a “daughter of a bitch” and makes fun of an obese man he posed with in a photo.

The chat also contains vulgar references to Puerto Rican star Martin’s homosexuality and a series of emojis of a raised middle finger directed at a federal control board overseeing the island’s finances.

Resignation chorus grows: Gabbard, AOC join lawmakers to call on Puerto Rican governor to resign

What is Rosselló’s background?

Rosselló is the youngest son of Pedro Rosselló, who served as governor from 1993 to 2001. The elder Rosselló launched a series of large-scale infrastructure projects that caused the public debt to balloon, leading to the bankruptcy inherited by his son.

The younger Rosselló, known as Ricky, started his political career in his father’s pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Trained in biomechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan and Duke, he launched his campaign for governor in 2015 with little history of public service.

Rosselló portrayed himself as a technocrat with solutions to Puerto Rico’s debt and crumbling infrastructure. 

Corruption probe: US lawmaker who oversees Puerto Rico calls for governor to resign

Can the governor survive?

Rosselló’s biggest challenge until now was Hurricane Maria. The Category 4 storm smashed through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, destroying the island’s power and communications systems. Most residents lost access to clean water and tens of thousands of homes were destroyed. The territory’s elderly and poor population were hurt the most; about 3,000 people died.

Rosselló came under fierce criticism for mismanaging the crisis, particularly for understating storm deaths. Yet, while some of his deputies were vilified, Rosselló seemed to emerge unscathed.

Presidential feud: Trump’s feud with Puerto Rico looms over congressional standoff on disaster aid

Then came the corruption arrests earlier this month and fury began to build in a territory struggling to emerge from a debt-driven financial failure and a decade-long recession and still trying to regain its footing two years after Maria.

The text messages may be the tipping point. 

“He was making an effort, carrying out his governor’s role,” said Jessica Castro, a 38-year-old San Juan resident attending a Friday evening protest with her family. “He was mocking everyone behind their backs, the people who believed in him. People are really disillusioned. He’s got to go.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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  • Demonstrators affected by tear gas thrown by the police run during clashes in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 17, 2019. Thousands of people marched to the governor's residence in San Juan on Wednesday chanting demands for Gov. Ricardo Rossello to resign after the leak of online chats that show him making misogynistic slurs and mocking his constituents.1 of 17
  • Demonstrators arrive on motorcycles during clashes, demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 18, 2019.2 of 17
  • Demonstrators and police face off during a protest against Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico on July 17, 2019 in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Police used tear gas and reportedly fired rubber bullets late Wednesday evening during the protest.3 of 17
  • A policeman shoots tear gas during clashes in San Juan, July 17, 2019.4 of 17
  • Demonstrators affected by tear gas thrown by the police run during clashes in San Juan.5 of 17
  • Demonstrators and police clash during a protest against Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico on July 17, 2019 in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.6 of 17
  • Demonstrators during clashes in San Juan.7 of 17
  • People take part in a demostration demanding Governor Ricardo Rossello's resignation in San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 17, 2019.8 of 17
  • Firefighters put out the fire of burned urban furniture after clashes, demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, July 18, 2019.9 of 17
  • Demonstrators carry a Puerto Rico flag as they gather at the Quinto Centenario Plaza to protest against governor Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico,, July 17, 2019.10 of 17
  • People take part in a demostration demanding Governor Ricardo Rossello's resignation in San Juan, Puerto Rico.11 of 17
  • Demonstrators protest against Ricardo Rossello.12 of 17
  • Demonstrators march against governor in San Juan.13 of 17
  • Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro (R) speaks alongside rapper Rene Perez, aka Residente, during a demostration demanding Governor Ricardo Rossello's resignation in San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 17, 2019.14 of 17
  • Demonstrators march against governor Ricardo Rosello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.15 of 17
  • Singer Ricky Martin (C) and rapper Rene Perez (R), aka Residente, attend a demonstration demanding Governor Ricardo Rossello's resignation in San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 17, 2019.16 of 17
  • Puerto Rican reggaeton singer Bud Bunny waves a Puerto Rican flag as he takes part of a demonstration demanding Governor Ricardo Rossello's resignation in San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 17, 2019.17 of 17

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