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Thousands continue to protest against governor in Puerto Rico

THOUSANDS of people took to the streets of San Juan again today to demand the resignation of Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello.

Crowds, joined by singer Ricky Martin, gathered near a baseball stadium for the latest protest in the capital after sexist and homophobic chat messages between the governor and his aides were leaked on July 13.

Mr Martin was targeted with homophobic language in some of the messages. Calling on the people to join the demonstration, the gay singer tweeted: “I want to feel the power of the people.”

Trade unions called for a general strike and many business owners decided to close shops and offices for the day, according to local media.

The 889 pages of Telegram app messages between the governor and 11 close allies and members of his administration, all men, showed them mocking constituents.

These included victims of Hurricane Maria, the 2017 disaster which led to the death of nearly 3,000 people.

They also mentioned how Mr Rossello manipulated public opinion about his administration through mass media by creating a “troll network” to discredit negative press coverage and criticism from opposition leaders and journalists.

Mr Rossello didn’t step down as governor but promised yesterday not to seek re-election or continue as head of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party in a bid to calm the unrest.

He asked for forgiveness and said he respected the wishes of Puerto Ricans.

But many were not happy with his statement and social media posts showed members of the public angrily banging pots and pans out of their windows.

Mr Rossello was elected governor in November 2016 with nearly 50 per cent of the vote and had previously announced his intention to seek a second term.

Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative to the US Congress, presidential candidates, and lawmakers, including Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was born into a Puerto Rican family, have called for the governor to step aside.

The unrest comes at a critical stage in the island’s bankruptcy process as it tries to restructure around $120 billion (£96 billion) in debt and pension obligations. Puerto Rico is also still struggling to recover financially from Hurricane Maria.

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