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Connecticut's Puerto Rican Diaspora Joins 'Ricky Renuncia' Protests

Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public Radio
Marco Romero waves a Puerto Rican flag during the early stages of a protest in Hartford on Tuesday July 23, 2019. Protesters called for the resignation of Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rossello.

For almost two weeks now, Puerto Ricans have taken to the streets of San Juan to call for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello. He was already a controversial figure in the wake of Hurricane Maria, but a recent leak of private messages sent between members of his administration has sparked a massive response that’s now reaching far beyond the island.

Members of the Puerto Rican community in Hartford protested Tuesday night in solidarity with the people demonstrating on the island.

The #RickyRenuncia protest started in front of a Walgreens at the corner of Park Street and Washington Street where a few people greeted cars passing by.

The demontration grew into dozens of people marching and singing in a circle.

“Ricky renuncia y llevate a la Junta,” the protesters chanted – asking for Rossello to resign and take his controversial financial oversight and management board with him.

The protest was organized by Agnes Torres. She scoffed at Rossello’s claims that the protests on the island have been violent. She used to live there. Now, she’s part of the diaspora having come to Hartford in 2017 to complete a master’s degree at Trinity College.

“I think the violence that we have been going through in Puerto Rico does not compare to the violence that the government makes by closing schools, by taking our jobs away, by taking our benefits when we work, by making us have to leave our island," Torres said. "So that’s violent and for me, it’s more violent than any graffiti that they do or any rock that they throw.”

Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio
Connecticut Public Radio
Svetlana Gelpi, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico, created her sign for the #RickyRenuncia protest in Hartford on Tuesday in honor of people who died in the wake of Hurricane Maria and the number of schools she said closed so far during the Rossello administration.

Many Puerto Ricans were done with Rossello after they found out that the island had over $74 billion in bonded debt. As the people went through a slow recovery effort in the wake of Hurricane Maria – even though billions of dollars had come through in disaster aid – the cries grew louder.

Marco Romero of Waterbury played a guiro instrument with a hair pick during the protest to pump the crowd. He believes that what he called the #RickyLeaks controversy should be the last straw.

“He called women bad names,” Romero said in reference to what Rossello said about Melissa Mark-Viverito, the former speaker of the New York City Council.

Romero’s mother was born on the island.

“When he called those women those names, he calling my mother those names,” Romero said. “It’s not only that. It’s time for him to stop stealing this money from the Puerto Rican people.”

Rossello has resisted calls for his resignation. But he did say that he wouldn’t seek another term. Romero was asked if he thought the protests would stop anytime soon.

“Oh it’s never going to stop – not until he’s done,” he said.

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