Puerto Ricans hit the streets again on Thursday — guillotine in tow — to demand the resignation of their governor.
The new unrest was triggered by the discovery of a warehouse in the southern part of the island that was full of supplies dating back to before Hurricane Maria in 2017. But that was just the last straw for people who were shaken by a round of devastating earthquakes earlier this month, and who say the government has mismanaged emergency responses for years.
Despite heavy rain, hundreds turned out in protest at Gov. Wanda Vázquez’s official residence on Thursday night, and stepped up the revolutionary imagery:
Protesters are demanding resignation and even jail time for Vázquez and other top government officials. The territory’s former housing secretary, who was fired last weekend, claimed earlier this week that the governor knew about the unused aid.
This is the second time in less than a year that anti-government protests have rocked Puerto Rico. In July, protesters successfully forced the resignation of Vázquez’s predecessor, Ricardo Rosselló, over a trove of scandalous text messages, allegations of corruption, and frustration at the territory’s finances, not to mention a lack of control over those finances.
Thus far, Vázquez—who’s up for re-election in November—downplayed the protests. “We cannot allow groups with other interests to divert our attention,” the governor said on Wednesday. “We’re in a moment of helping people in the south, not of creating controversy.”
On top of all of that, Puerto Rico is still awaiting billions in federal funding that was promised to the island after Hurricane Maria. Earlier this month, the Trump administration ended a hold on over $8 billion in funding, and House Democrats unveiled legislation that would provide $3.35 billion in emergency funds to Puerto Rico.
On Wednesday, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted out a message of solidarity with the island’s residents.
So far, the protests haven’t reached anywhere near the size of last summer’s protests that began as demonstrations against Rosselló, which saw hundreds of thousands in the streets of San Juan at their peak. But protest organizer and rapper Residente (Réne Pérez), says he believes change must come now.
“We’re not going to wait until November because the politicians in this country are not going to wait until November to steal,” Pérez told the Guardian. “They’re going to steal starting now.”
Cover: People join a protest organized by Puerto Rican singer Rene Perez of Calle 13 over emergency aid that until recently sat unused in a warehouse amid ongoing earthquakes, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Protesters demanded the ouster of Gov. Wanda Vazquez. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)