US lawmakers demand Puerto Rico governor resign as protests roil island

Demonstrators chant slogans as they wave Puerto Rican flags during the seventh day of protest calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello in San Juan, Puerto Rico July 19, 2019. Picture taken July 19, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 20 July 2019

US lawmakers demand Puerto Rico governor resign as protests roil island

  • The protests have also tapped into simmering resentment over Rossello’s handling of devastating hurricanes in 2017
  • Banging pots and pans and chanting “Ricky Resign!,” Puerto Ricans streamed into San Juan’s old city on Friday night and called on Rossello to quit over the misogynistic and homophobic messages

Several US Democratic presidential candidates and lawmakers on Friday demanded Puerto Rico’s governor step down over offensive chat messages, as thousands on the Caribbean island staged a seventh day of protests to seek his resignation.

Banging pots and pans and chanting “Ricky Resign!,” Puerto Ricans streamed into San Juan’s old city on Friday night and called on Ricardo Rossello to quit over the misogynistic and homophobic messages.

The chats, from a Telegram message group and referring mainly to politicians and officials, were published on Saturday.
The leak, running to 889 pages, added to Rossello’s woes after two former officials were arrested by the FBI last week as part of a federal corruption probe in the US territory.

The protests have also tapped into simmering resentment over Rossello’s handling of devastating hurricanes in 2017 and alleged corruption as Puerto Rico’s fragile economy struggles to recover from the island’s bankruptcy.

US Representative Tulsi Gabbard joined the protests in San Juan, saying she wanted to “stand up to corruption,” as other Democratic presidential candidates including Julian Castro and Elizabeth Warren also called for Rossello to quit.

“We must stand with la isla. Rossello must resign,” tweeted US Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, whose mother was born in Puerto Rico.

The island’s nonvoting representative in the US Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez, earlier called for his resignation, while Rossello’s press secretary Dennize Perez resigned, saying she could no longer hold the position after she was called corrupt in front of her son.

“It’s your turn, Ricky,” protesters chanted on the street after word spread that Perez had stepped aside.
Rossello, who is affiliated with the US Democratic Party, has refused to step down but said he would hold an emergency meeting with leaders of Puerto Rico’s New Progressive Party, which he leads.

Puerto Rico House Speaker Carlos Mendez on Friday announced the creation of an independent committee to determine whether the center-right politician engaged in illegal activity in the chats. The group has ten days to deliver its findings.

The island’s bar association published a report citing clear grounds to impeach the 40-year-old former scientist, based on the “depravity” of his messages.

The chats, revealed by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, showed how Rossello and allies exchanged vulgar memes and comments as well as privileged information. While opposition legislators back impeachment, the process has yet to gain critical support from lawmakers in Rossello’s ruling party.

But politicians like Gonzalez are increasingly concerned about Puerto Rico’s “anarchic” image after clashes in San Juan this week and allegations the two administration officials arrested by the FBI stole government funds.

The violence and political turmoil comes at a critical stage in the US territory’s bankruptcy process. It has also raised concerns with US lawmakers who are weighing the island’s requests for billions of federal dollars for health care and hurricane recovery efforts.

“The island cannot afford to lose already approved federal resources, nor the ones we are working to obtain,” Gonzalez said in her letter to Rossello urging him to step aside.


Thailand’s lost baby dugong dies from shock, eating plastic

Updated 50 min 58 sec ago

Thailand’s lost baby dugong dies from shock, eating plastic

  • Marium, the female baby dugong had already lost her mother when she was initially found
  • Biologists tried saving her, but they believe she died of a combination of the plastic and shock

BANGKOK: An 8-month-old dugong nurtured by marine experts after it was found lost near a beach in southern Thailand has died of what biologists believe was a combination of shock and ingesting plastic waste, officials said Saturday.
The female dugong — a large ocean mammal — was named “Marium” and became a hit in Thailand after images of biologists embracing and feeding her with milk and seagrass spread across social media. Veterinarians and volunteers had set out in canoes to feed Marium up to 15 times a day while also giving her health checks.
Last week, she was found bruised after being chased and supposedly attacked by a male dugong during the mating season, said Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.
She was brought in for treatment in the artificial sea on Libong Island in Krabi province.
“We assume she wandered off too far from her natural habitat and was chased and eventually attacked by another male dugong, or dugongs, as they feel attracted to her,” Jatuporn said Saturday.
An autopsy showed a big amount of plastic waste in her intestine, which could also have played a part in her death as it led to gastritis and blood infection, he said.
“She must have thought these plastics were edible,” Jatuporn said.
The dugong is a species of marine mammal similar to the American manatee and can grow to about 3.4 meters (11 feet) in length. Its conservation status is listed as vulnerable.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-arcpha said Marium’s death saddens the whole nation and the world.
“Her death will remind Thais and people all over the world not to dispose trash into the oceans,” Varawut said at a news conference.