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Amid Protests, Puerto Rico's Governor Says He Won't Run For Reelection


Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello says he will no longer seek reelection in 2020. The announcement comes after a week of protests which were set off by a leaked group chat in which the governor and members of his staff made comments that were seen as sexist, homophobic, elitist and insensitive. That tipped the balance for Puerto Ricans who've lived with decades of government corruption and are still struggling to recover from a financial crisis and the damage from Hurricane Maria. NPR's Adrian Florido with the Code Switch podcast is in San Juan and is here to tell us more. Hello, Adrian.


MCCAMMON: So how did this announcement that Rossello will not run for reelection - how'd it come about?

FLORIDO: Well, just a few moments ago, we started hearing rumors that the governor was going to go live on Facebook to make some kind of announcement - and sure enough, he did. And when he started to stream, he basically said, like you just mentioned, that he will not seek reelection next year, as he had originally intended. He also said that he intends to continue working as governor for the rest of his term. He said that he welcomed the impeachment process that is apparently kind of just starting to get started within the island's legislature. Let's hear a little bit of the tape of his announcement just now.


RICARDO ROSSELLO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: So he also said that he is going to be resigning the presidency of his party. So it looks like he's preparing to wind down his time in public office but not before his term ends next year.

MCCAMMON: You've been covering these protesters out in the streets this week. Will this be enough to placate them?

FLORIDO: I doubt it. After the governor's announcement, I walked over to the gates of the governor's mansion, where protests are underway. And I spoke with some people who said that this is not enough, that they continue to demand the governor's resignation. Listen to what Victor Cruz (ph) told me.

VICTOR CRUZ: He's become a symbol of the struggle, so he needs to go. It's not about a second election. He needs to leave now.

MCCAMMON: And what have you been hearing in San Juan from the protesters you've spoken to this week so far?

FLORIDO: Well, you know, the protests have evolved so quickly over the course of the last week. They started last weekend very small after these leaked text messages were published. And they have transformed over the course of the last seven or eight days into these massive demonstrations with people from all walks of life, from all parts of the island descending on San Juan and really - getting really creative in the way that they protest. We've seen people coming to protests on horseback and on jet skis and doing yoga protests and all sorts of sort of interesting, creative things. This has really kind of - this sort of whole ordeal has sparked sort of a political awakening in that - unlike anything Puerto Rico has ever seen.

MCCAMMON: And there was supposed to be another really major big protest tomorrow. What's that about, and do you think it will still happen?

FLORIDO: Oh, it absolutely will still happen. You know, people across Puerto Rico are preparing for it. It's a protest that's going to happen on the largest highway here in San Juan. Expectations are that hundreds of thousands of people are going to come out. And it's just sort of the latest sort of ramping up the protesters are doing in an effort to pressure Governor Rossello to step down immediately. A lot of preparations are underway. Police are making preparations. People are out making their signs and organizing caravans and figuring out how they're going to get there. It's sure to be a massive demonstration.

MCCAMMON: And very briefly, Adrian, is this just about these offensive chats or is more going on here?

FLORIDO: No, no, this is a lot more. I mean, the chats were just sort of the breaking point for people who feel like they have been sort of living from - through one crisis after another after another over the last decade and, really, over the last decades because there's also a lot of frustration with decades of corruption within Puerto Rico's government.

You know, the hurricane, the fiscal crisis, the billions of dollars in debt, the austerity measures that have made it really hard for people here to get by - all of those things are things that people have felt like - the traumas around those ordeals are things that people feel like they've been holding in for a long time. And so when they saw these text messages that really kind of showed the governor not caring and, in fact, mocking everyday Puerto Ricans, they said, that's enough. He's got to go. And we've got to sort of come up with a new political system that works for us.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR's Adrian Florido in San Juan. We've just heard that the governor, Ricardo Rossello, of Puerto Rico says he'll no longer seek reelection in 2020. Thank you so much.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Sarah. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.