Democratic Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard flew to Puerto Rico Friday to join the thousands of protesters there who have demanded that Gov. Ricardo Rosselló step down, taking action on a chorus of calls from 2020 presidential contenders for the embattled governor’s resignation.
“I’m here today to stand with and show support for my fellow Americans in Puerto Rico in their stand against corruption, and against a government that has proven it is of, by and for the rich and powerful, leaving the people behind,” Gabbard said in a campaign statement.
Mass protests erupted after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published leaked chats between Rosselló and his inner circle, including profanity-laced, homophobic and misogynistic messages about fellow politicians, members of the media and celebrities. Rosselló has rejected calls to resign.
Gabbard said the protests, which have lasted all week, are about more than “offensive language,” but about “rampant corruption within Puerto Rico’s government.” She urged her fellow 2020 candidates to come to the island “even if it’s just for a day, to show your support for the Puerto Rican people and their righteous cause.”
Former secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro on Friday became the first 2020 Democratic candidate to call on Rosselló to resign.
“Americans in Puerto Rico are holding Governor (Rosselló) accountable for his disgraceful comments (and) corruption,” Castro tweeted Friday morning. “I stand with the Puerto Ricans in the streets protesting for his resignation. Excessive force against them is not acceptable.”
While campaigning in Manchester, New Hampshire, Castro later told reporters that Rosselló “can no longer be effective and I believe that he should resign.”
Castro surveyed the island’s recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria in a visit to San Juan in January — his first as a declared 2020 candidate.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who had also visited the island in January when she was exploring a run for president but had not yet jumped into the 2020 race — also called for Rosselló’s resignation Friday, saying his “actions are hurtful and undermine the public trust.”
“I’ve been standing with the people of Puerto Rico in their protests against corruption and their governor’s behavior. The people have spoken — loud and clear: (Rosselló) should resign,” Warren tweeted.
In a tweet on Saturday, former Vice President Joe Biden called Rosselló’s comments shameful but stopped short of calling for his resignation.
The 2020 candidates are among the many politicians putting pressure on Rosselló to leave office.
Democratic New York Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have joined the chorus of elected officials calling on Rosselló to exit his position. Velázquez was born in Puerto Rico and Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican descent.
Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said in a tweet late Friday that the “island deserves new leadership.”
“I’ve long advocated for the families of Puerto Rico. I’ve pledged to be their voice in the Senate. While I’ve been hesitant to weigh in too heavily on the internal political affairs of the island, it’s clear that the current leadership has lost the confidence of the people of PR,” Scott wrote.
Puerto Rico’s sole representative to Congress, Jenniffer González-Colón, told CNN’s Juan Carlos Lopez in an interview that she wants Rosselló to step down from leading the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico and as governor.
In an open letter posted on both Twitter and Facebook, González-Colón said it’s time for Puerto Rico to move forward.