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Rally calls for Puerto Rico gov's resignation after anti-LGBTQ chat surfaces
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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In the wake of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello's political allies' recent arrests on corruption and fraud charges, the Chicago Boricua Resistance and its allies rallied in front of Federal Plaza on July 16.

Among the demands they are calling for are the resignation of Rossello and his entire Cabinet, the abolition of the Fiscal Control Board and debt cancellation, and the creation of an internationally recognized and supervised decolonization process.

These demands are also because of what has been named the #TelegramGate Scandal. An 899-page telegram chat was leaked to the press in recent days that contained anti-LGBTQ, racist, misogynistic and body-shaming comments by Rossello, his Cabinet and private citizens loyal to his administration. The chat also as had comments that mocked those who died due to Hurricane Maria and its aftermath.

Over the past few days, protests have broken out in San Juan as a result of #TelegramGate which Rossello's government has attempted to squash. Since #TelegramGate was made public, two chat members have resigned from their public posts.

Speakers at the July 16 event included Chicago Boricua Resistance leaders Miguel Alvelo Rivera and Jazmine Salas, 33rd Ward Ald. and Chicago Boricua Resistance Co-Founder Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, Chicago Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines leader Michael Boyt and Mijente member Corina Pedraza.

Salas told Windy City Times ahead of the protest that the #TelegramGate group "made jokes about the LGBTQ acronym, said that famous queer astrologer Walter Mercado had a one-night stand with former University of Puerto Rico President Tony Garcia Padilla at the governor's mansion, 'nothing says patriarchal oppression like Ricky Martin' and made fun of a transgender teen at an event by saying that because the governor had not shaved his beard, now even the women at the governor's mansion have beards. They also said the same teen was an extra from 'the greatest showman'."

Rivera and Salas kicked off the protest with chants and songs in both English and Spanish with some being started by a few of the 150 people in attendance. Chants included calls for the resignations of Rosello—"Ricky renuncia"—and President Donald Trump as well as slogans like "From Palestine to Puerto Rico, we fight for the people," "Ricky, escuchas, estamos en la lucha" ( "Ricky, listen, we are in the struggle" ) and "Lucha si, entrega no!" ( "Struggle yes, Surrender no!" )

"This is one of the many demonstrations happening throughout the diaspora and one of hundreds inside the archipelago of Puerto Rico," said Rivera. "We are living through an historic moment in our people's history. In our lifetime's we have never experienced a moment like this. We know what is happening right now because of Ricky Rossello is nothing but a symptom of a greater disease. That disease is called colonialism and imperialism. As long as this exists, we will see more people like Ricky Rossello. He and everybody in his government need to resign. We need a government that is for the people and by the people."

Salas spoke about the colonialism that has been happening in Puerto Rico for 120 years that has displaced boricuas. She explained that over 4,000 people died due to Hurricane Maria and it made her ill to read the comments in the chat that mocked the victims.

"Reading over the chat and seeing the corruption and bigotry in front of my eyes reminded me of the reasons why my family was forced to leave Puerto Rico and move to New York and later Florida," said Salas. "This is a crisis and will keep happening until we get rid of colonialism in Puerto Rico and make the island a free and independent nation."

Rodriguez-Sanchez told the crowd she is "so angry" because of the thousands of people who died due to the negligence following Hurricane Maria. She spoke about the years of corruption that has taken place and how it has "ruined our island." Rodriguez-Sanchez said she has never seen so many Puerto Rican's fighting back as she has in this moment. She explained that being visible and protesting is the only way to effect positive change in Puerto Rico.

Boyt said his organization stands in solidarity with the Chicago Boricua Resistance and the resistance happening in Puerto Rico.

"I am enraged because we see the sexist, homophobic, racist mierda that was leaked in the telegrams every day," said Pedraza. "It is rampant and more visible than ever before [across the country]."

Pedraza said this includes the recent Justice Department decision to not charge a New York police officer in the death of Eric Garner, the "concentration camps" at the border and other hateful comments and decisions coming from the Trump Administration.

Rodriguez-Sanchez also told Windy City Times that the hate expressed by Rossello and his circle is the same kind of hate Trump and many members of his administration have perpetuated against multiple minority groups including LGBTQ people and immigrants since he took office.

"The federal government that is overseeing the [Puerto Rican] colony is the same one that is caging little kids," said Rodriguez-Sanchez. "There is a relationship in terms of the neglect and lack of absolute care about the poor, vulnerable and most exposed people in our society. We are ready to fight against that wherever it happens … and protect our undocumented and transgender brothers and sisters against these hateful policies."

Following the rally, the protestors marched to the Chicago Board of Trade and rallied there before returning to Federal Plaza.

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