NEWARK, NJ - Although some 1,500 miles away from Newark, the resignation of Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló’ was met with praise from residents here who still have close ties to the island.
Councilman At-Large Luis Quintana was on the island for a family wedding when protests broke out to call for Rosselló’s resignation. Protesters were displeased with leaked messages from the governor that joked about those who died in 2017 during Hurricane Maria.
“They shut the highway down,” said Quintana, who lived on the island until he was 7-years-old. “And I tell you, even the tourists who were traveling were respecting the people of Puerto Rico. The people of Puerto Rico were very well behaved.”
The Newark Puerto Rican Puertican Day Parade board also staged protests and a caravan last Sunday to denounce Rosselló. About 200 people joined the rally outside of Tainos Kitchen Restaurant on Mount Prospect Avenue.
“I think the young people showed their resiliency, their stand, their understanding of how democracy works,” said Jesus Casiano, the government affairs liaison for the Puerto Rican Day Parade. “How they can use their own tools of knowledge to make a better country.”
The leaked messages weren't the only issue that angered Puerto Ricans both abroad and here in Newark. The island is also facing fiscal and budgetary issues and top officials in Rosselló’s administration are reportedly under FBI investigation.
There are still people reeling from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, and the Puerto Rican government’s handling of aid has also come under scrutiny. Newark Puerto Rican Day Parade President Luis Lopez said there are still people on the island who are using tarps for roofs on their homes.
“It’s bad,” Lopez said. “We have plenty of people still waiting for the aid from the government to take care of the houses. There are people that still live in complete poverty because of that. They lost everything.”
He later added: “People have awakened. And from now on every politician will think twice of what they’re going to do.”
Rosselló originally defied protesters’ call for his resignation, instead saying he wouldn’t run for reelection. He later announced Wednesday that he would effectively resign on Aug. 2.
Puerto Rico's secretary of state was supposed to succeed Rosselló, but that official resigned because of the leaked message scandal too. Puerto Rico's justice secretary, who islanders believe to be loyal to Rosselló, will be next in line to lead now.
"We now must use this time to move Puerto Rico forward," said State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, who is also of Puerto Rican descent. "The voice of the people were heard. Now action, integrity, transparency, and responsibility must be part of the guiding force to rebuild."
North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos and other Puerto Ricans TAPinto Newark spoke to said the impact activists had on the island could set an example for countries in Latin America.
“The resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosello could mark an important turning point in the history of Puerto Rico,” Ramos said. “People in the island and around the world pulled together regardless of political affiliation. Their unified message of frustration over years of lack of government effectiveness was heard loud and clear.”
The Newark Puerto Rican Day Parade board plans to celebrate Rosselló’s resignation during its annual parade, which is scheduled for Sept. 15.