The people of Puerto Rico seem to have finally reached a boiling point.
Taking to the streets of San Juan for nearly two weeks this month, an estimated 500,000 protesters demanded that Gov. Ricardo Rosello resign after leaked messages showed the governor and members of his inner circle making homophobic and misogynistic slurs.
The demonstrators got what they asked for: Rosello, who has served since 2017, announced he would step down on Aug. 2.
But they did not, at least not yet, get what they wanted, which is an end to the political corruption that has plagued the island of 3.4 million people for years; relief from Puerto Rico’s crushing debt; and full recovery from the destructive effects of Hurricane Maria.
The most immediate unanswered question by CNY’s press time was, who will replace Rosello?
Under Puerto Rico’s succession system, the island’s secretary of state is next in line to serve the remainder of a departing governor’s term, but the post has been vacant for more than two weeks after Luis G. Rivera Marin resigned due to involvement in the messaging scandal.
The next in line, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vasquez, is also the target of protesters, who say she’s too close to Rosello and want her to resign. Other government officials are either too young, have announced they’re not interested or are fighting charges of corruption.
Unfortunately, a leadership vacuum of that magnitude could potentially make the island’s woeful situation even worse.
The bishops of Puerto Rico recognize this, and immediately after Rosello announced his resignation they issued a statement calling on the island’s people to maintain their unity to overcome the underlying social ills that led to the crisis.
“Let us make this a great opportunity to unite as a people and work together, without flags and parties, in the search for the common good to overcome the fiscal crisis, corruption, violence and other evils,” the July 25 statement said.
We, too, are concerned about the underlying problems that led to Puerto Rico’s governing crisis and hope for a stability that, with the help of the U.S. Congress, will lead to a sound economic future.
We have often noted in our news coverage the tremendous impact that Puerto Rico and its people have had on New York, and on New York’s Catholics stretching back for generations.
More than 1 million Puerto Rican-Americans call New York state their home, and many have family members living on the island, all of whom are American citizens by virtue of Puerto Rico’s status as an unincorporated U.S. territory.
The New Yorkers are the children and grandchildren of the Puerto Rican migrants who made up the first large group of Hispanics to settle in the archdiocese in the post-World War II years, and their influence on our local Church and culture continues to remain strong.
We will be joining our Puerto Rican neighbors in closely watching the developments in the coming days and weeks and praying with them for a peaceful resolution and progress.
We also join the island’s bishops in their call to rebuild Puerto Rico’s democratic institutions and “develop new government policies that help the integral development of the person.”
“Every citizen, no matter the color, creed, sex or political party must give the best of themselves to start a new phase of life in the history of this people,” their statement said. “Nobody must remain with their arms crossed, because, united, a better Puerto Rico is possible.”
We urge the people of Puerto Rico to join that effort.