Pop star Ricky Martin is among tens of thousands of Puerto Rican protestors calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello over a series of offensive text messages.
Nearly 900 pages of text messages leaked on July 13 exposed a group chat from 2017 in which close allies and members of Mr Rossello’s administration made sexist comments, criticised Ricky Martin for being gay and joked about the dead victims from Hurricane Maria.
Mr Martin led a protest of Puerto Ricans to the governor’s house on Wednesday demanding Mr Rossello resign over the offensive comments, which described the singer as a “male chauvinist”.
In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Martin said: “They mocked our dead, they mocked women, they mocked the LGBT community, they made fun of people with physical and mental disabilities, they made fun of obesity. It’s enough. This cannot be.”
— Ricky Martin (@ricky_martin) July 22, 2019
In one disturbing group chat conversation, Puerto Rico’s former chief fiscal officer Christian Sobrino said he was “salivating to shoot” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been openly critical of the governor.
Mr Rosselló replied: “You’d be doing me a grand favour.”
On Monday, demonstrators blocked the main road in the capital San Juan, in what was expected to be the biggest rally in 10 days of protests.
For hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans, the offensive text messages were the final straw in a series of scandals plaguing Mr Rossello’s administration.
The visual and sound speaks volumes. This is San Juan, Puerto Rico NOW pic.twitter.com/ojVecpoLQl
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 22, 2019
Mr Rossello has been slammed for mishandling recovery efforts after more than 3000 people were killed when Hurricane Maria hit the island, and federal authorities have already charged top officials for offences such as corruption, fraud, money laundering.
The US territory is suffering a financial crisis amid a 13-year recession and owes $US70 billion in debt.
But despite furious calls to resign, Mr Rossello is refusing to quit.
Instead, he announced he would continue as governor but would not seek re-election, nor remain head of his pro-statehood political party.
In a video posted on Facebook, Mr Rossello said he would defend himself against the process of impeachment.
“In spite of everything, I recognise that apologising isn’t enough, that only my work will help restore confidence,” the governor said.
“Facing that scenario, I announce to you that I will not seek re-election next year.”
But for many Puerto Ricans, an apology will not be enough.
The mass street rallies are the largest protest movement on the island since Puerto Ricans demanded an end to US Navy military training on the island of Vieques more than 15 years ago.
Right now outside the governor’s mansion in Puerto Rico.
Protesters have delivered an ultimatum that if he does not resign by midnight they will make the island ungovernable.#RickyRenunciaYA
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) July 22, 2019
Im not seeing enough coverage of this The people of Puerto Rico have united against a corrupt government. Hundreds of thousands of protesters have showed up in Old San Juan every night to stand up for their rights. The protests wont stop until the governor resigns #RickyRenuncia pic.twitter.com/EDcnRzmnSZ
— Alex Torres (@akeetorres) July 20, 2019