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Leaked text messages a ‘tipping point’ for Puerto Ricans

Thousands of Puerto Ricans have taken to the streets over the last week demanding Gov. Ricardo Rossello’s resignation after hundreds of offensive and vulgar private messages between the governor and his inner circle were leaked to local media. Washington Post’s Arelis Hernandez joins Hari Sreenivasan to explain.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    For more on Puerto Rico, I'm joined now by Washington Post reporter Aleris Hernandez via Skype.

    So tell me a little bit about what was the tipping point? Why did these protests emerge this week?

  • Aleris Hernandez:

    So Puerto Rico has been going through quite a bit of drama historically in the last several years not the least of which having to do two years ago with Hurricane Maria. So there's been a lot of suffering accumulated.

    But what really sort of tip the scales for folks was a series of leaked chats that came through the local investigative journalism mouth here in Puerto Rico in which several jokes were made between the governor Ricardo Rosello and members of his inner circle which include lobbyists and friends and government officials joking about various things among them the cadavers, the people who had died during Hurricane Maria and the bodies sort of piling up in the morgue they made a joke about that and that in and of itself is what set people off.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    And this was right on the heels of an FBI investigation where there were allegations against some of his what members of the inner inner circle?

  • Aleris Hernandez:

    Right. No he actually had to end his European vacation early and come back to Puerto Rico cause two top members, including the education secretary were indited and arrested by the FBI on corruption charges including money laundering. Basically, they're being accused of having steered million of dollars in federal aid to specific preferred candidates and income contract.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    You mentioned Hurricane Maria and you have been reporting on this ever since the storm but you just were out there reporting over this past week and you were talking to people who didn't have power or water for months.

  • Aleris Hernandez:

    Yeah. No I think that's part of what has upset people so much is that to see sort of have a real look at what the governor and his inner circle were thinking and talking about. Well people are suffering in Puerto Rico. And it's like them indifference to their suffering.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Tell me a little bit about what sort of support now that the governor still has. Because here in the mainland we're seeing lots of Democratic presidential candidates and other members of the party distancing themselves from him.

  • Aleris Hernandez:

    Right. The governor has very little support across Puerto Rico from politics to business people have been calling for him to resign, members of his own party. Jennifer Gonzalez, who is a resident commissioner, which Puerto Rico representative is in the house basically asked him to resign. Also this week I am guessing his family is still behind him he still has a few supporters in his party but the legislature right now is actively looking at impeachment.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    OK. So there's a catch here because if he does resign the second in line is a secretary of state but that person has also resigned after these chats.

  • Aleris Hernandez:

    Yes, the secretary of state was a part of this chat room, this frat boy club that some people have called it out here. And it's unclear if he's still in his post but he's basically resigned. And so if you don't want to step down or if you were impeached. Right now there is no clear successor.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    OK. So you don't have a clear successor even if there is a resignation, you still have people who are trying to recover from this storm, all of the aid has not already made it to Puerto Rico. Right?

  • Aleris Hernandez:

    Right. No. Puerto Rico is at a turning point. This is a moment of crisis for I'm going to say country because that's how folks describe Puerto Rico. It's a U.S. territory. But it's a moment where folks are really starting to call in all the grievances that they've had brewing for years.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    From Puerto Rico, Washington Post reporter, Arelis Hernandez. Thank you so much.

  • Aleris Hernandez:

    Thank you for having me.

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