The following was originally written for and published by Revolution Now Magazine.
Thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets over the course of two weeks, waving Puerto Rican flags, ringing cowbells, and calling for the resignation of governor Ricardo Rossello. But what led them to take part in the U.S. territory’s largest protest in decades? And what was the aftermath of this sudden shift in political power? To understand the tensions that led up to this historic change, and the chaos that ensued, one must follow a complicated timeline of corruption, salacious messages, and outcry from some of Puerto Rico’s biggest stars, like singers Bad Bunny and Ricky Martin.
July 10, 2019: Six officials in Rossello’s cabinet are indicted on various charges including money laundering, wire fraud, and conspiracy. Education Secretary Julia Keleher and another unnamed official are accused of directing $15.5 million in government funds towards politically affiliated contractors between 2017 and 2019. Keleher was widely criticized in the wake of Hurricane Maria for her desire to privatize Puerto Rico’s school system, a plan that included teacher layoffs, school closures and budget cuts.
July 13, 2019: The story of the texting scandal, since coined Chatgate, breaks in Puerto Rico’s Centro de Periodismo Investigativo.
"Now that we are on the subject, don't we have some cadavers to feed our crows?" - Rossello's response to a joke made about the Hurricane Maria death toll
"Nothing says patriarchal oppression like Ricky Martin," he wrote."Ricky Martin is such a male chauvinist that he f—s men because women don't measure up. Pure patriarchy." - Rossello's comments on openly gay star Ricky Martin
The report, totaling 889 pages, releases messages exchanged by Rossello and nine other government officials on the messaging app Telegram. Spanning from the end of 2018 to January 20th of this year, the messages contained homophobic and sexist language. In one exchange, Rossello referred to former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito as a “whore,” made homophobic jokes about openly gay pop star Ricky Martin, and at times even mocked those who died in Hurricane Maria.
July 14, 2019: Celebrities Ricky Martin and Bad Bunny join the public outcry, with Martin postponing a show in Ibiza, Spain to join protests in San Juan. Rosello announces he will not resign, but will instead forego a re-election bid and step down as the leader of his party. “In spite of everything, I recognize that apologizing isn’t enough, that only my work will help restore confidence… facing that scenario, I announce to you that I will not seek re-election next year,” stated Rossello.
July 24, 2019: After days of mass protest, Rossello announces his resignation, effective August 2. Celebrations take place in San Juan and around Puerto Rico.
July 28, 2019: The woman slated to become Puerto Rico’s next governor, current Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez Garced, tweets her desire for Rossello to appoint a secretary of state before he leaves office, saying,“"I reiterate, I have no interest in occupying the position of Governor. The constitution dictates it. I hope that the Governor identifies and submits a candidate for the position of Secretary of State before August 2 and I have told him so," Vasquez wrote in a tweet in Spanish on Sunday.
August 2, 2019: After the island’s House of Representatives approved his appointment as Secretary of State, Pedro Pierluisi is sworn in as governor. However, since his nomination hasn't been passed by the Puerto Rican Senate, his administration is expected to face legal challenges. The Senate will vote on Pierluisi’s governorship on Wednesday. "If the Senate ratifies me, I will be governor until 2020. If the Senate does not ratify me, I will be governor until next Wednesday," stated Pierluisi. At this point, Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez Garced would ascend to the position. Although she expressed distaste for assuming the role, she confirmed Thursday that she would “take it if it came to her.”
August 7, 2019: Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court rules that Pierluisi’s governorship is unconstitutional, on the grounds that both houses of the legislature did not approve his nomination as secretary of state before he was sworn in as governor. Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez Garced then takes the oath of office. Although she previously expressed that she did not want to take the position, she said Wednesday that she “respects the ruling.” In a statement via Twitter, Garced stated, “Puerto Rico needs certainty and stability.”