As It Happens

Protester behind Puerto Rico's historic march says governor's resignation is just the start

A filmmaker who had the idea for Puerto Rico's historic protest on Monday says the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello is just the beginning in a "complete transformation" of the island. 

'People today are celebrating but ... Part 2 of this is already starting,' says filmmmaker Toñy

Demonstrators celebrate after the resignation message of the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, in front his mansion known as La Fortaleza in San Juan on Wednesday. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images)

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A filmmaker who had the idea for Puerto Rico's historic protest on Monday says the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is just the beginning in a "complete transformation" of the island. 

The embattled governor announced Wednesday night that he will resign Aug. 2, after nearly two weeks of protests. Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez will become Puerto Rico's second female governor.

Hundreds of thousands of Peurto Ricans have been protesting since July 13 after lewd online chats between Rosselló and his advisors were leaked, which insulted women, were homophobic and mocked victims of Hurricane Maria. 

It is just the latest scandal from a government that is already plagued with criminal investigations, allegations of corruption and a slow recovery from the 2017 hurricane. 

Toñy, whose identity CBC is protecting because he fears for his family's safety, spoke with As It Happens guest host Megan Williams about how he began Monday's historic protest and what's next. 

Here is part of their conversation. 

Where were you the moment that Ricardo Rosselló announced his resignation? 

I was in front of the barricades and in front of the governor's mansion in Old San Juan. 

People were protesting and chanting, mixed with dancing and singing, and someone pulled out their phone and there was the message from the governor and they put the microphone to it. 

Once he said that he was stepping down, then it … went from protest to party.

You got involved in these protests pretty early. Can you tell us about the flyer that you posted online [last] Tuesday and what happened with that?

So my mom, we were watching Sopranos because we were … so stressed out by everything.

And she said, "You know, what we need to do is close the highway."

And she said, "We did that … in 2000 for the protest to get the [U.S.] navy out of Vieques, one of our islands."

And then I googled that next to her and then I saw the pictur. It was an aerial shot of the march and I was like, "Wow."

I just made a really amateur kind of fake news looking flier that said: "On the highway, they can't trap us with tear gas." 

All I did was post a flyer and then 11,000 people share it and it reached 500,000 people.

So what brought you to protest against Gov. Rosselló

I'm very aware of our history and this ... chat leak just opened a can of worms. 

For me, personally, I was more upset about the corruption charges from the week before for the former secretary of education.

And, obviously, that happened under our governor's administration. So who knows if he knew. I imagine that he did. 

I felt like he allowed that to happen and that just shows that there's a lot of other stuff that we just haven't uncovered. 

Puerto Rican filmmaker Toñy, wearing a bright yellow mask, at Monday's protest. (Submitted by Toñy)

What about the homophobic texts?  How big a role did they play in you taking part in the protests? 

For me, personally, I kind of already knew that he was like that. So I wasn't shocked. I was happy that it was revealed, but I was a little bit surprised that people didn't already know that.

I think this artist Robi Draco Rosa said it the best. He said what's crazy about these 800-something pages is …. all that it says is how they manipulate everything and how they just move everything like a chess piece. 

There's no conversations here about taking care of our island, doing the best job. 

You never see anyone sacrificing, you never see anyone working hard. It's almost like a mafia. It's almost like ... The Sopranos.

Now that Gov. Rosselló has signed his resignation letter, what would you like to see happen next? 

I think at the end of the day the real problem is that the people that have been assigned to lead the country are thinking about themselves and not its residents. And it's as simple as that. They're just there for themselves and we need a leader that is thinking about us.

Demonstrators march on Las Americas highway in San Juan on July 22 demanding the governor's resignation. (Carlos Giusti/The Associated Press)

Wanda Vázquez is closely aligned with Mr. Rosselló. Do you think that she can bring about any of the change that you and so many others would like? 

No. There's no way she is going to be the governor of Puerto Rico. 

People today are celebrating but ... Part 2 of this is already starting. 

It's leading to a complete transformation.

Written by Sarah Jackson with files from The Associated Press. Produced by Allie Jaynes. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.