As tensions grow in the streets of Puerto Rico over a corruption scandal involving the island’s governor, natives of the island here in Connecticut are paying close attention to the civil unrest.
“Rosello don’t respect myself, he don’t respect nobody,” said Eulogio Velez of Rocky Hill.
Velez is part of the growing list of voices calling for Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello to resign.
“We’re tired of the lies of the governor,” said Jose Bartolomei, a journalist from Bristol who traveled to the governor’s residence this week to see the protest in person.
“I think he have to leave with dignity because he’s done a lot of damage to us,” added Millie Delgado, a resident of Caguas, Puerto Rico.
She arrived at Bradley International Airport on a flight from San Juan Wednesday afternoon. Before she left, Delgado says she saw large groups of protestors.
They’ve taken to the streets night after night in the wake of multiple scandals. Nearly 900 pages of profanity-laced private chat conversations between Rossello and his associates were made public, comments which some viewed as vulgar, misogynistic, homophobic, and insensitive in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The Category 4 storm ravaged the island in September of 2017.
“This is not supposed to happen on my island,” said Velez. “I see how my island go down, and down, and down, the corruption and this and that.”
“This is like a political hurricane, every single Puerto Rican in the island and out of the island are hurt,” said Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, (D) who represents District 3 in Hartford in the Connecticut Legislature.
Several members of the Rosello’s administration face allegations that they embezzled more than $15 million in federal funding between 2017 and 2019. Gonzalez made four humanitarian trips to the island after Maria.
“I think that everybody’s talking about the same thing. They’re talking about the money, where the money’s going and if it’s going to the right person, to the right people, and I really have the same feeling,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said the first term governor was applauded for his response to the hurricane, but has now fallen out of favor with many of his constituents.
“I know if Puerto Rico has to go through election right now, he would not get elected,” she stated.
Delgado agreed, saying she was happy with the job he did at first but now believes his true colors are showing.
For his part, Rossello said he has no plans to resign.
"I am not proud of what I did. Those were merely comments, but they were hurtful comments. So, I apologize for what I've done but again, I need to move forward and continue on the work we are doing for Puerto Rico,” said Rossello.
Jose Claudio of New London, and his daughter, Jaylynn witnessed the protests near a tourist attraction they were trying to take pictures of. They never made it there.
“Everyone was over there with signs and stuff on their heads, covered the face,” Jose described. “They screaming Ricky get out, get out. Resign, resign. Ricky resign. After we get out, everything got out of control.”
Passengers on two Royal Caribbean cruise ships were expected to dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico this week. They’ve been rerouted because of civil upheaval on the island. Longtime travel agent Fay DeHaas says changes to cruise ship itineraries are not uncommon.
“They have the right, and they’re not going to risk docking in a port where there’s unrest,” said DeHaas of Cruise Planners.
She said the cruise line is not obligated to refund passengers but they will often take them to a different island or may offer an on-board credit.
“When passengers go on a cruise, they’re signing a contract. The cruise line has the right to make decisions to change course of the cruise. They take their safety and security very important,” DeHaas explained.
If your travel plans will take you to Puerto Rico, she says you should let the timing determine whether you decide to stay or go.
“If they’re traveling next week and they are spending a week in San Juan, maybe it’s time to make a change, maybe it’s time to look at another island. But, if they’re traveling six months from now I would say let’s hold off because honestly the islands depend on tourism, it’s their bread and butter,” she said.
Her number one tip when traveling is to expect the unexpected and get travel insurance.