Interview with Ricardo Rosselló: the former governor talks about his new life

“I need to show the other side of that story,” Rosselló said. “From my point of view, everything I did, I did for the people of Puerto Rico.”

Rosselló believes he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after the hectic days after Hurricane María (almost category 5) that swept the island in the fall of 2017 and killed around 3,000 people. Officials were blamed for inadequate preparation, delays in restoring electricity and for not admitting, at least initially, that many people had died.

Afterward, Rosselló said, he went without sleep for a week and personally went out to help rescue people stranded on rooftops. He says that even after leaving office, he would wake up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep.

“Maria’s deaths are a terrible, terrible pain that I always carry,” he said.

His political party has also suffered the consequences: he managed to retain the governorship in the November election but lost the majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate of Puerto Rico. After decades of bipartisanship, candidates from other parties have significantly extended their participation in the race for governor, a sign that a political realignment is brewing.

Yarimar Bonilla, a political anthropologist at Hunter College who specializes in Puerto Rico, said the changes reflected in the last election were monumental and confirmed that the activism that emerged after the message scandal is still going on in very important ways. Rosselló, he said, was right in saying that things got worse on the island after his departure. But she holds him responsible.

“Each agency is a total failure for all the lackeys it named,” he said, noting that the health secretary Rosselló had appointed had to resign when doctors revealed the lack of testing for the coronavirus. The former governor will be remembered by members of his administration who were accused of corruption, closing schools to save money and his crusade to privatize even the beaches, Bonilla says.

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