Death threat, sexist jokes: Puerto Rico governor refuses to resign after text messages leak

Ricardo Rosselló had his hands full with corruption scandals before this, but now he’s going to need serious juggling skills. The leak of messages from a group chat the Puerto Rico governor administrated exposed profane and offensive jokes between Rosselló and his allies, including a joke about assassinating one of his political opponents. Puerto Ricans are rallying in the streets demanding Rosselló’s resignation, but at least thus far Rosselló is remaining defiant:

The governor was the administrator of this chat room, where they discussed setting up a troll network to go after anyone seen as critical of this administration.

The leaked chat room conversations among Rosselló and 11 others are laced with profane, homophobic and sexist comments, and in one case even a death threat against the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz. The governor’s chief financial officer, Christian Sobrino, wrote, “I’m dying to shoot her up.” Rosselló replied, “You’d be doing me a big favor.” …

Arnaldo Claudio was one of the people targeted in the group chat. He was appointed by the Justice Department five years ago to bring reform to Puerto Rico’s police department.

“That is really scary in a democracy,” Claudio said. “This is not right at all, and it needs to be condemned. They cannot have people like this trying to coerce people or trying to use their level in government to harm people. It’s wrong.”

Claudio’s not alone in that assessment. The situation in the streets is bad enough that Rosselló had to deploy police in riot gear to contain the protests. The first leaks were bad enough, but the damage grew rapidly as the full set of messages got published, showing Rosselló giving the middle finger to others … literally, in one case:

Mr. Rosselló, 40, apologized on Thursday after an excerpt from the chat was first published by local media showing he had referred to Melissa Mark-Viverito, the former speaker of the New York City Council, who was born in Puerto Rico, using the Spanish word for “whore.” In English, he also used a profane expression in reference to the oversight board that controls Puerto Rico’s finances, followed by emojis of a raised middle finger. …

But on Saturday morning, the Center for Investigative Journalism published the entirety of the leaked chat, which spanned from late 2018 to January and included Mr. Rosselló and 11 other men in his close political circle. The cache of messages showed that the governor and his current and former aides had also derided many others, including leaders of their New Progressive Party and the Puerto Rican celebrity Ricky Martin.

Wait — Rosselló insulted Ricky Martin on Telegram? Never mind the joke death threat and the profane insults to his own party’s leadership. This alone makes Rosselló toast in Puerto Rico.

All joking aside, Rosselló may have a very large legal headache on his hands. If he planned a campaign of intimidation against Claudio for his DoJ reforms, that is something that might seriously interest the FBI. Even without a criminal investigation, the impression that Rosselló was more concerned about setting up troll farms than dealing with recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria will put a stake through Rosselló’s political ambitions. At the moment, Rosselló’s own party has backed away from demands for his resignation, but that may only be a brief respite. They’re not going to want to carry Rosselló for very long.

By the way, who thought it was a good idea for the governor to run a Telegram chat room in the first place? Did no one stop and think, “Maybe we shouldn’t be writing this down?” Does no one remember Richard Nixon’s Oval Office taping system, for Pete’s sake?