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In Puerto Rico, Ponce Mayor Mayita Meléndez Discusses The State Of The Island


So here we are, nearly a week into a scandal that has overtaken the island of Puerto Rico. The governor refuses to step down, protesters in the streets of San Juan refused to back down until he does. And what set all of this off, of course, was the leak of hundreds of pages of offensive messages between the governor and people in his inner circle, messages that were sexist, homophobic, that even made fun of the dead bodies filling up morgues after Hurricane Maria. We're going to talk to someone now who is a member of Governor Ricardo Rossello's political party. She's the mayor of Ponce - Mayita Meléndez.


MAYITA MELÉNDEZ: Oh, thank you very much. Pleasure to talk with you.

CHANG: Let me just jump in. I understand that you met personally with the governor earlier this week. What did you expect to hear from him at that meeting?

MELÉNDEZ: Well, I thought we were going to talk about what he has done, all those messages in the Telegram chat. He has to ask for forgiveness. He said that, with your forgiving, he will not do it again. He made those people who were in the chat - he made them resign from their staff.

CHANG: He made those other people resign who took part in the messages?


CHANG: What did he say about his own resignation and the possibility of that?

MELÉNDEZ: Well, no. He didn't talk about the resignation. He just talked that he was going to maintain as a governor. He knows that he was going at the same time to make many laws against corruption in Puerto Rico. And I thought a more sensitive person was going to talk.

CHANG: You found him insensitive.

MELÉNDEZ: Yes. And I saw a man just determined to keep working. This happened, OK, forgive me. I will continue. No.

CHANG: Has he lost your support completely at this point?

MELÉNDEZ: Yes, he has lost all my support even though he's an intelligent man. He has made many reforms. He has worked for the people.

CHANG: If he doesn't resign, Governor Rossello could be theoretically impeached. Would you support his impeachment?

MELÉNDEZ: Well, you have to prove many things in court for impeachment. They have only evidence for the impeachment. And the ones who get impeachment - is the Congress of Puerto Rico. So they have to decide.

CHANG: Do you think that there is enough political will to make that actually happen?

MELÉNDEZ: Well, I will say that the citizens are asking for his resignation.

CHANG: Right.

MELÉNDEZ: But I don't want to see an impeachment (unintelligible) - really, I think, as an intelligent man, he should resign. He should resign.

CHANG: Finally, let me just ask you about your thoughts on how this might be reverberating outside of Puerto Rico. Are you worried about how this scandal is being perceived on the mainland? I mean, President Trump is tweeting that Congress was foolish for giving so much aid to Puerto Rico for hurricane relief and that the island's leadership is, quote, "corrupt and robbing the U.S. government blind." Does this scandal only reinforce remarks like that about Puerto Rico?

MELÉNDEZ: That would affect not only our relations with the United States, but at the same time, it will affect the relations with the central government, the federal government - for their relations. The people are the ones who's going to suffer. Now we have to make alliance. We have to make alliances with all sectors, including the private sector, other governmental entities, including the federal government. We cannot lose the confidence of the United States. We are part of the United States. We are citizens of the United States, and we have not been treated as citizens.

CHANG: Mayor Mayita Meléndez of Ponce, thank you very much for joining us.

MELÉNDEZ: Oh, no, thank you very much for the opportunity. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.