Leaked Telegram Chat Following Corruption Arrests Troubles PR Governor
After calls for Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign amidst the arrests of several high-profile government officials for corruption, a Telegram chat was leaked on Saturday that showed the governor and his advisors being profane, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, hostile towards the opposition party, and disrespectul of the deaths caused by Hurricane Maria.
A single page of the chat was leaked prior to the arrest of former Education Secretary Julia Keleher and Health Insurance Chief Ángela Ávila-Marrero, but the entire 889-page transcript (covering November 30th 2018 - January 20th 2019) tells a much larger story.
Some of the ‘highlights’ include Chief Fiscal Officer Christian Sobrino asking if there were “Any spare bodies we can feed our crows?” as unidentified bodies flooded the island’s forensic institute, a back and forth between Financial Director Edwin Miranda and consultant Carlos Bermúdez about Senate leader Eduardo Bhatia referencing “20 years and 200 pounds back … and 7 less men … sorry,” several hashtags proposed by the governor to combat the federal ban on cockfighting such as “#DontYouTakeMyCockAway, #FightingForOurCocks, and #TodosSomosCocks,” and a conversation about the Miss Universe pageant (that the governor called ‘softporn’) in which Miranda insinuated that former Senator Evelyn Vázquez was a sex worker.
Governor Rosselló announced on Saturday that some members of the chat would resign, and that he would evaluate his cabinet and may make announcements in the future as to their departure. Among those who resigned are Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marín and Chief Fiscal Officer Christian Sobrino.
"I want to announce that I have taken the decision to immediately dispense with the collaboration of all those close to my administration who are part of the chat that was revealed today in its entirety,” Rosselló said, seemingly referencing the members of the chat who do not hold government positions.
However, the Governor announced that Secretary of Interior Ricardo Llerandi and Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira would keep their positions despite their involvement in the scandal. Rosselló himself made another statement on Sunday outlining his agenda and reiterating that he would not resign, despite the leaked messages and mass protests.
As Rosselló remains committed to maintaining his position, thousands have protested outside of his mansion and throughout the island for four days straight, calling for his immediate resignation. Some journalists have said that the police used pepper spray and tear gas on protestors.
Protestors and journalists are using the hashtags #TelegramGate and #RickyLeaks to distribute information and frustration over the scandal.
Ignoring calls for his resignation and a formal investigation, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez said she would not look into the messages, and that instead reflection is necessary.
“To err is human and there is integrity and courage to recognize it,” she said.
Rosselló will announce his work with transparency and accountability organizations in the coming weeks in an effort to combat the corruption that began this spiral, his office reported.
Some outlets raised concerns about the inclusion of lobbyists in the chat, as the governor and his aides shared confidential information that could benefit those outside the government.