The Political Crisis in Puerto Rico
From The New York Times I'm Michael Barr this vidale today hundreds of leaked text messages reveal view the governor of Puerto Rico mocking his own citizens from Puerto Ricans. It was the last straw it's Friday July nineteenth <music> <tone> Hi Patty Hello Michael Barbaro. Hello Hello how're you. I've been better how are you. I'm okay. Why have you been better? What's the matter just tired? It's been really long nights but that's okay. You've been staying up late covering the protests. Yes sir. There's a mean in Puerto Rico of people saying okay. I'm going to bed a friend telling them like but what are the governor resigns and like the person lying in bed with their eyes wide open like they don't WanNa miss that moment and so right right right right like the one moment you does off as the moment at all happens. That's what we live in Europe. I reached Padamsee a national correspondent for the Times in San Juan. How do you for most listeners? I suspect the story three of Puerto Rico sort of hits the pause button in October of two thousand Seventeen Hurricane Maria hits the island is thrown into darkness and into chaos and president trump's response is seen by many as insensitive and insufficient sufficient yes but the story came back in April of this year when members of Congress were considering a disaster aid bill nature's voices have battered the United States in the past half year storm win floodwaters and deadly wildfire to those natural disasters now add a man made one not just for Puerto Rico but for a bunch of states on the mainland that had suffered various natural disasters dispute between President Trump and Democrats over hurricane relief for Puerto Rico is threatening disaster relief funding for California's wildfire victims and the president wanted wanted to hold up the bill just because he did not want to send money to Puerto Rico this were billions of dollars that would have gone to Florida Texas states in the Midwest that were suddenly at this impasse because the president said I'm not sending more to Puerto Rico President trump accused Puerto Rico's leaders of misspending money they had already received. He said the government can't do anything right that the place is a mess and nothing works there Eric. Here's part of the tweet the polls are grossly incompetent spend the money foolishly abruptly and only take from the U._S._A.. And therefore he did not trust Puerto Rican leaders to manage new funds well the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico the tweet says is the President Donald J trump and what's the response in Puerto Rico this time so Puerto Rican still don't like being called out by the president they find that offensive but that doesn't mean gene that some of them at least don't agree with some of the substance of his criticism which is that the leaders on the island have always been very good fiscal stewards of public funds. Mhm Puerto Rico has suffered financial troubles for years and has had corruption scandals for decades and so people on the island were wary that once again and some of this might come up with billions of dollars in recovery aid flowing into the island so Puerto Ricans don't entirely disagree with the president that perhaps the island can't be trusted with the money no and that's what made some of their response nuanced right. You can be mad that the president the only time he talks about you is to say bad things and still think he's got a point in that our leaders haven't haven't always done well by US mean in fact Puerto Rico is effectively bankrupt. They're in a twelve year recession and they have a debt crisis. Their leaders borrowed until they couldn't anymore the Lindgren of money so what happens next and this offered to nominate sang these awful Dario Cantor our two hundred major elements and so three weeks ago Puerto Rico's treasury secretary says an on Explosive Radio interview that he has gone to federal authorities to report this institutional mafia he calls it within the government that is trying to extort him <music> in a matter of ours. The governor asks the Treasury Secretary for his resignation saying he can't trust him because the secretary didn't go to the governor to tell him what he had found he went straight to the feds. The Puerto Rico Ricardo over the Sierra Corruption Propia. He's firing the Treasury Secretary for reporting <music> alleged extortion attempt to the United States government as you can imagine that doesn't sit well with some of the governor's critics and also but some of the secretaries family members illegal exit the Sierra Maldonado Ehore so what if this. Expert Ghetto is signed takes to social media to criticize governor and then the son gets investigated by police and this starts turning into a real drama six people people including two former Puerto Rican officials were arrested for allegedly diverting millions and federal funds to unqualified politically connected contractors yesterday in the middle of all this last week the U._S. Attorney's Office in Puerto Rico announces six high profile arrests including of the former education secretary and of the former executive director of the Islands Health Insurance Administration Agency the alleged scam involves fifteen point five million dollars colors and federal funding allocated since twenty seventeen. The feds say they were defrauding the federal government. Here's what is really so disappointing Julia Kelleher she was impressive. She was driven. She seemed like takes someone who could do some good things. It's such a slap in the face for an island that means so much to see her go down. If this is true and what I was thinking too is that you know Puerto Rico P._r.. Does not need any bad A._p._R.. Domino and to top it off the governor is on vacation in Europe. He calls off his education leaves his wife and children on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean and flies back to get back to the island wind as quickly as possible and then while he's flying back. There's a new wrinkle someone leaks bits and pieces of a group chat on the messaging APP Telegram Graham between the Governor and eleven of his closest aides and in this leak our offensive and profane comments that they make about some of their political opponents there is is a snapshot that the governor posts of a tweet by the former speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark Vivid He Dole who was originally from Puerto Rico where she's criticizing Tom Perez the president of the Democratic National Committee and the Governor's governors response is Mister Hinson lead. I offended them. E Lindsey my up Oba which in English means our people need to go out and defend Tom and go oh after this whore so well first of all good afternoon. Thank you all for for being here so by the time the governor lands in San Juan briefly. I wanted the to up to the press. The entire press corps has assembled and is ready to pounce. What a strategy are you using to continue the operations of government and the economy for the economy to continue so good good question spent some calls calls for your resignation from your political position? Do you have a decision or answer to that call so so I'm moving forward with all of my elected position. You were the leader of this chat room that conspire to discredit people people you didn't like why would you do that again. <hes> I've already mentioned <hes> I am <hes> I I am not proud of what I did. <hes> those were merely comments but they were hurtful comments so I I apologize for what what I've done and how does that explanation go over now particularly well. The people who were insulted in the chat say that this is unacceptable behavior by their leaders and Puerto Ricans eakins in general who have been seeing these bits and pieces come out are sort of just waiting for the next one to drop and then it's not that there's another bit that Drops Governor Ricardo Rocha so you has been under fire since nearly nine hundred pages of a private group chat were leaked in publish this weekend by the Center for it's eight hundred eighty nine pages published on Saturday morning by Puerto Rico Center investigative reporting detailing tailing two months of this chat in full the leaked chatroom conversations between the Governor and eleven others are laced with profane homophobic and sexist comments and what is in the second batch of messages. The second batch of messages has more insults where not only are they targeting critics of the governor in his administration but also their allies for example a young man who is overweight wait who met with the governor and there's a picture in the chat of the two shaking hands and the governor making a crack about north way my flacco L._A.. Luciano Deka No. I'm not thinner. It's an optical illusion and then saying boy we you know he generates his own gravity field. I mean things that are just really cool inappropriate yes but in addition to that there is the bigger picture which is that Thera- people in this chat who are no longer members of the government including a lobbyist who has his own business interests and he is getting fed sort of inside information from his buddies with the governor being aware of it so weeks after president trump calls the government Puerto Rico corrupt. They're all these indictments that basically say he's right and then there are these leaks that cast the Puerto Rican government as completely insensitive to everyday Puerto Ricans Yeah if you thought cynically that these people were more concerned about how they look than what they do if you thought that maybe they didn't really respect people even if they pretended outwardly. Believe they did and if you were concerned that there was if not real corruption than the perception of corruption that it could be happening that people were really cozy with their friends with lobbyists and business leaders in their inner circle and then what the chat did was confirmed your worst fears and prove that you were right and so people started taking to the streets spontaneously and they're very fed it up and so that's when I got on a plane and come because we're starting to wonder if this is going to force the governor to resign. Is this going to be a moment that changes things well. They're back at Delta. We fly to two three hundred cities. That's three hundred cities where people sitting in the car poorly three hundred cities where people miss someone in one of our other two hundred ninety nine cities. We don't fly to three hundred cities merely to bring us together but to show last. We're not that far apart doubts keep climbing patty walk me through the last few days in San Juan the streets of all San Juan are narrow and colonial their cobblestone streets mind with shops that are painted and colorful red and pink and green and purple and they have been deserted during the day and packed at night not because people are going to bars or there's a bunch of tourists here but because the protesters come down they come with flags lags in hand and they're wearing black and white t shirts with political messages and they're just standing for hours sometimes starting in the middle of the day under the scorching sun in front or as close as they can get in front two the governor's mansion cholesterol which which means the fortress and they start chanting and this is the Caribbean so the percussion is great they find these great rhymes with the governor's nickname ricky and so not just keep saying Viki no resign reside people were not just mad about these chats. I mean some of the signs were about that some of the chance where about that but one the things that was really stunning was the number of protest signs that just listed the number of people who have been estimated could have died under Hurricane Maria so sometimes just said four thousand six hundred forty five. She's sort of the upper end estimate these people have suffered not only through hurricanes and a power outage that lasted a year but also with major economic hardships and layoffs and school closures and people leaving the island on mast moved to the mainland and it all just was pent up and it exploded all at once and then the celebrities joined the people table and on Wednesday night there is Ricky Martin and the rapper resident they and the trap musician bad bunny and the singer eating and they're standing on the platform of this truck as the sun setting in front of the ocean the capital behind them and we lay looks out over this crowd between the capital and the palm trees and the ocean and she says it was about damn time to wake up yeah so it's clear that a lot of this frustration is landing at the doorstep of the governor but my sense is the because of the complicated relationship between Puerto Rico in the United States that the governor is not all that powerful right. It's interesting that you mentioned that Michael because one of the other chance that we heard was deke ideo at the junta shallow money breath ricky say when Ricky resign and take the board with you and that refers to this Federal Oversight Board that Congress created to handle Puerto Rico's finances after it essentially went bankrupt and that is another big target of these protests because the boards role is to tell Puerto Rico what it cannot spend and that involves layoffs and school closures and university tuition hikes and possibly targeting public pensions and so the board which is unelected and comes from Washington. Written has made Puerto Ricans feel powerless to a lot of them. It's just another example of how they have been colonized I by Spain and then by the United States and it reminds them that they can elect their governor they can elect some of their leaders but they cannot elect the president they are not state. They're not a country and a lot of this is out of their hands. So the mismanagement by Puerto Rico's own leadership leads the federal government a government that Puerto Ricans don't think release sees them as equal to the mainland to step in and it's sort of this vicious cycle cycle where the worst Puerto Rico's leadership behaves the more the federal government intervenes and also is sort of proven correct in his argument that Puerto Rico doesn't deserve or can't quite properly handle this federal funding right and in the middle the people of Puerto Rico keep suffering what happens now aw well. The people on the streets want the governor to resign but he says that he's not going to go. There's talking to legislature that they might impeach him but they have not decided if they're going to yet even if he goes then there's a whole new set of questions Ken his replacement in that case govern many Puerto Ricans would like more autonomy to govern themselves but who can they trust when the federal government is not inclined to give them more autonomy. The Island government has not proven to be all that effective. How can the next person lead an island under these circumstances under this sort of federal oversight without any money recovering from a hurricane and basically the biggest question is is this island governable? Is this displease a police that can be effectively run and the answer to that. Thank you very much. Thank you Michael Back. This is your wakeup call from the uncertainty and frustrations of waiting for a liver transplant. It's time to wake up demand a better way and get off the waiting list today instead of waiting months or years while your your liver disease worsens a living donor transplant at U._p.. A._M._C. in Pittsburgh allows you to take action now. This is your wakeup call. Stop waiting and start living visit life-changing liver dot com slash U._p.. M._C. to to learn more yours what else you need to on Thursday the U._S. Navy shutdown and Iranian drone in the straight of Hormuz not far from where Iran shutdown it down a U._S.. Several weeks ago the trump administration said that before it was struck the unmanned Iranian drone had ignored multiple warnings that it was straying close to an American ship the U._S._S. boxer. The attack is expected to inflame tensions between the two countries when their supporters last night were chanting sent her back. Why didn't you stop them? Why didn't you ask them to stop saying well? The number one I think I did I started speaking for a quick president. Trump on Thursday tried to distance himself from supporters who chanted send her back at a rally the night before when he mentioned congresswoman ill on Omar of Minnesota a reference to his own tweet about Omar and three of her Democratic Collins I disagree with but it was quite a chance and I felt a little bit badly about it but contrary to the president's claim that he tried to quickly end the champ video shows he listened on for thirteen seconds as the crowd repeatedly yelp on Thursday after the large crowd read it congressman home <hes> she returned to Minnesota and the daily is made. I feel welcome. 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