After a day of mostly peaceful demonstrations in Puerto Rico, tensions have become heated between protesters and police as tear gas was released into the crowd in San Juan last night as the group demands the removal of embattled Gov. Ricardo Rossello. The unrest is fueled by leaked online chats where the governor insults women, political opponents, and victims of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, one of the most devastating natural disasters to hit the island. The comments were included in 900 pages of text messages obtained and posted on July 13 by the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism.
Cruise lines are canceling its Old San Juan calls as the unrest continues, costing the island millions of dollars. Two cruise ship calls scheduled in San Juan on Monday were canceled. Celebrity Equinox headed to its next scheduled port of St. Thomas and MSC Cruises extended a stay in St. Maarten for MSC Seaside, rather than send it to Puerto Rico.
“Empress of the Seas has been re-routed to Tortola, and our guests will receive refunds for prepaid shore excursions. We continue to monitor the situation closely and will make adjustments as necessary to ensure the safety and security of our guests and crew,” said Owen Torres, Royal Caribbean corporate communications in a statement.
Cruise lines canceled those stops since local companies that have agreements to provide excursion services canceled most of the scheduled excursions.
The economic impact that would accrue from the arrival of the MSC Seaside is estimated at $439,000 and the Celebrity Equinox at $311,000.
In addition, images of hundreds of thousands taking to the streets may have a negative PR impact.
Discover Puerto Rico, the island’s destination management organization, issued a statement on its website that encourages, “those visiting the island to avoid the areas specifically where and when protests are scheduled to take place and to contact the hotels and local businesses they wish to visit to ensure their plans run smoothly and to allow additional time for travel, as there may be delays.”
Ahead of Monday’s march, the biggest shopping mall in San Juan, Plaza Las Américas, announced that it would not open for the day. Some banks also were closed, and university classes were canceled.
The protests have grown as anger has been fueled by Rossello’s refusal to step down. He plans to serve out his term, which expires in 2020.
Rossello, 40, the second youngest governor in Puerto Rican history and the son of former Gov. Pedro Rossello, was sworn in as governor of the U.S. territory on Jan. 2, 2017, amid turmoil over a debt crisis and 13 straight years of recession.
“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda Miranda is among a growing list of celebrities who have joined in the call for Rosello’s resignation. “This is bigger than a political party, the governor’s lost the confidence, and every step he takes now should be about the peaceful transition of power and getting out of office,” Miranda said at a protest in New York City.
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