Puerto Rico Continue Protests Ahead Of Expected Address From Gov. Ricardo Rosselló

Jul 25, 2019
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In Puerto Rico tonight, thousands of protesters are gathered in the streets of San Juan, waiting for a promised address from Governor Ricardo Rossello. Nearly two weeks of daily demonstrations were sparked by the publication of private text messages between the governor and his inner circles; messages that offended many and may be grounds for impeachment. NPR's Adrian Florido has been covering the protests and joins us from San Juan. And, Adrian, tell us what's going on there right now.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Hi, Ari. Well, it's been a really chaotic day here in San Juan. And, really, it started last night, when local media reported that the governor's resignation was imminent. And so all day today, people across the island have been expecting that resignation to take place. And the anticipation has only been building since the speaker of Puerto Rico's House of Representatives gave a press conference in which he said that if the governor does not resign, he will begin impeachment proceedings against him. So people here have been glued to their TVs and radios all day, waiting to see what happens next, and have also flooded the streets of old San Juan outside the governor's mansion.

SHAPIRO: And this is a real about face for the governor, who, up until earlier this week, was insisting that he would stay in power. So where is this going to go from here?

FLORIDO: Well, just a couple of hours ago, the governor's secretary of public affairs - one of the few members of his Cabinet who remains who hasn't resigned - came out and told me and dozens of other journalists who are camped out at the governor's mansion that the governor would deliver an address tonight. But when we asked him what time, he wouldn't say. And he said the governor was still writing his address. So it's now after 9:30 - almost 9:30 that is. And in the meantime, the crowd here in old San Juan is swelling. And as the crowd has grown, the mood here has gotten more and more tense as people are waiting. There's tension because, you know, more and more riot police have been starting to surround the governor's mansion. There have been several protests this week that have ended in violence. So to answer your question about what happens next, I think it depends entirely on what the governor decides to do tonight. That will certainly determine how protesters respond.

SHAPIRO: And remind listeners why these protests have been so intense and sustained.

FLORIDO: Well, look. I mean, you know, the protests that began last weekend started over these text messages that you mentioned earlier, you know, in which the governor was using all this profane language and offending everyday Puerto Ricans. But they've very quickly grown into a much broader protest about all sorts of things that people are frustrated with here - frustrated over and angry at their government at; so, you know, the decade-long economic recession that's driven hundreds of thousands of people from the island, you know, the bungled response to Hurricane Maria, the fact that public spending on public services is being slashed because of the economic crisis. It's really become - this protest movement - a sort of broader repudiation of the government and what people feel is the government's sort of failure over decades, really - failure to provide what Puerto Ricans need.

SHAPIRO: These protests have been described as historic. And I know you've spent lots of time in Puerto Rico ever since Hurricane Maria. What does it feel like to you compared to what you've seen in the last year-plus?

FLORIDO: They - I think that, you know, describing them as historic is an absolutely accurate description. This kind of political mobilization by so many different sectors of society here, by so many different people - people who've never protested before - has never happened. And that's really notable - right? - because after Hurricane Maria, for example, there was all kinds of things that people could protest over, but they didn't. And so that sort of broad participation that's happening here sparked by people just absolutely being fed up with the way politics work here. That's never happened. And people look around and say, wow. We can't believe that this is happening. What a historic time for Puerto Rico. It is unprecedented. And it is historic.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Adrian Florido on resignation watch tonight in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Thank you, Adrian.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Ari.

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