March of the people: Puerto Rico mobilizes largest protest for Gov. Rossellós resignation

March of the people: Puerto Rico mobilizes largest protest for Gov. Rossellós resignation

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Thousands gathered in San Juan early Monday to take part in what’s expected to be the largest protest in Puerto Rico’s history, occupying the island’s busiest highway.

Protesters gathered at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in what is being called the Marcha del Pueblo (The People’s March) and the Paro Nacional (National Strike). After 9 a.m., demonstrators were expected to virtually stop activity in the San Juan metropolitan area and march across some of the island’s principal highways, such as the Las Américas Expressway, Roosevelt Avenue and Jesús T. Piñero, which connect the island’s main shopping, banking and commercial districts.

Many businesses closed on Monday in anticipation of the crowds, including Plaza Las Américas, one the Caribbean’s largest malls.

The protesters students, teachers, a community of hearing-impaired people, young professionals, truck drivers and families from all walks of life, carrying signs and chanting, “Ricky, renuncia!” (“Ricky, resign!”).

The national strike comes a day after Rosselló announced on Facebook that he would step down as head of Puerto Rico’s pro-statehood party and wouldn’t be seeking re-election in 2020. But he also doubled down on his assertions that he wouldn’t resign, despite massive protests on the island and dozens of calls from local leaders and from the mainland U.S. demanding that he do so.

Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have been taking to the streets of San Juan, the U.S. territory’s capital city, as well as towns across the island for the last 10 days demanding his ouster.

Puerto Rican artists Ricky Martin and René Pérez Joglar, known as Residente, confirmed on Sunday night that they would be attending Monday’s march and rally, days after rallying hundreds of thousands in protest.

Martin said on social media that he wanted lawmakers in Puerto Rico’s Legislature to move forward with an impeachment process. “If he still refuses to resign, that’s the only option we have. It’s on you to listen to the massive demands of each Puerto Rican person,” he said.

Other Puerto Rican artists such as Bad Bunny, Tommy Torres, Kanny García and Olga Tañón are also joining Monday’s rally.

As massive protests are underway, the president of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives Carlos Méndez Núñez — who is from the same pro-statehood party as the governor — is expecting to receive a report from three appointed lawyers in upcoming days, outlining whether an impeachment process can be initiated.

The investigation would be looking into whether the contents of nearly 900 pages of leaked private chats between the governor and some of his current and former officials as well as close associates show any possible conflicts of interest or law violations.

Puerto Rico House Rep. Dennis Márquez already introduced a resolution to initiate impeachment proceedings against Rosselló, outlining 18 possible crimes that stem from the leaked chats.

The leaked chats revealed profanity-laced, misogynistic and homophobic comments as well as barbed and cynical remarks about different topics, including jokes about deaths following Hurricane Maria.

Melissa Mark-Viverito, former New York City Council Speaker and interim president of Latino Victory, which promotes Latinos for higher office, said that what’s happening in Puerto Rico “is not sustainable.”

“I can’t imagine a scenario where the governor can go knock on Washington’s door and effectively move any agenda for Puerto Rico forward,” Mark-Viverito told Telemundo Puerto Rico in Spanish. “The people can’t suffer the consequences of a corrupt administration.”

Rosselló had characterized Mark-Viverito as a “whore” in the chats.

Both island and federal authorities are conducting multiple investigations looking into corruption or conflicts of interest in the Rosselló administration.

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