Thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets Monday as Gov. Ricardo Rosselló clung to his job amid a deepening scandal involving vulgar text messages that have fueled intense emotions across the island.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters were expected, and they quickly overwhelmed the expressway into San Juan for what could be the largest rally yet, coming one day after Rosselló announced he would not seek reelection but refused to resign.
President Donald Trump joined the chorus, calling the U.S. territory's leadership "corrupt and incompetent" during a White House media session.
Rosselló's boyish charm and dogged determination helped him survive controversies surrounding Hurricane Maria, which ripped the island apart in 2017, and a series of corruption scandals. "Chatgate," however, is proving his most difficult hurdle.
Monday marked the 10th consecutive day of protests.
The scandal involves the leak of more than 800 pages that include sometimes profanity-laced, misogynistic texts and online chats with male members of his administration.
Mario Negrón Portillo, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico’s school of public administration, told The Guardian that Rosselló had a reputation as a meek family man. The brutal language revealed in the texts rocked the island of more than 3 million people, he said.
“Everyone woke up one day and the governor was spouting vulgarities,” Negrón said. “There’s nothing worse for a politician than losing legitimacy. I think Ricardo Rosselló has lost legitimacy.”
The controversy began less than two weeks ago with the arrest of Rosselló associates on corruption charges. The next day, the texts began emerging, and a few days later Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism published 889 pages.
Rosselló 's targets included former New York City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
Rosselló, upset that Mark-Viverito had challenged Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez's support for statehood for Puerto Rico, called her a "whore." And when a colleague texted that he was "salivating to shoot" the mayor, Rosselló responded that he would consider it a favor.
Rosselló and his associates made light of the suffering Maria imposed on island residents and used vulgar language regarding a federal board overseeing the island’s finances. Even island musical star Ricky Martin was not spared: A Rosselló associate used tasteless language to describe Martin's homosexuality.
Rosselló apologized shortly after the information became public.
“I’m the governor of Puerto Rico, but I’m a human being who has his faults,” Rosselló said.
Under Puerto Rican law, the secretary of state would be next in line if Rosselló succumbs to the overwhelming pressure to depart. But Luis Rivera Marín has resigned his post amid the controversy. That means Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez would get the job.
Apologies have failed to curb the crisis, and protests have been growing. Last week, a series of protests were led by unionized workers accompanied by horseback riders and a caravan of thousands of motorcyclists. On Sunday, kayakers made their case from the waters.
"They mocked our dead, they mocked women, they mocked the LGBT community," Martin said in a Twitter video. "They made fun of people with physical and mental disabilities, they made fun of obesity. It's enough. This cannot be."
Rosselló also has drawn ire on the mainland; “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda was among protesters gatherer last week in New York. Also, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member of Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez; Sen. Rick Scott of Florida; and New York Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez have demanded Rosselló step aside.
In Puerto Rico, organizers labeled the planned road shutdown “660,510 + 1,”- the number of people who voted for Rosselló plus one more to counter his claim that he will not resign because he was chosen by the people.
Mark-Viverito was among those protesting Monday in San Juan.
"He must resign; that is the message today," she told CNN. "This is not about me. This is an attack on all women and an attack on Puerto Rico in general."
Contributing: Susan Miller; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Puerto Rico Gov. Rosselló says he won't run again as protests grow