Tom Stieghorst
Tom Stieghorst

Street protests aren't the last thing Puerto Rico needs. That would be another hurricane.

But the island stands to lose millions of dollars from lost cruise calls, on top of its other woes, as cruise lines shy away from docking in Old San Juan near the government mansion of embattled governor Ricardo Rossello.

Cancellations of calls by the Empress of the Seas and the Harmony of the Seas on July 15 and 16 cost Puerto Ricans $657,154 according to estimates by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company (PRTC). Another $750,000 will disappear with cancellations by the Celebrity Equinox and the MSC Seaside that coincided with the mass protests and strike yesterday.

PRTC executive director Carla Campos said the lines would bypass Puerto Rico because shore excursion providers had canceled most tours, and the cruise operators were concerned about the protests in Old San Juan.

There's no doubt Rossello stepped in it with the release of transcripts from a private chat group that included profanity-laced comments about fellow politicians, members of the media and celebrities.

I'm certainly curious about who leaked the transcripts and what their agenda might be. It can't be to help Puerto Rico in the short term. News coverage has sent Puerto Ricans into the street and created a media narrative and images that aren't going to bring tourists or prosperity to the island.

The protestors are calling for Rossello to step down. Well fine, but what then? Puerto Rico has no lieutenant governor to take Rossello's place. Puerto Rico's secretary of state would normally be tapped as acting governor, but the most recent secretary, Luis Rivera Marin, resigned earlier this month. His successor would have to be nominated by the governor.

Beyond that, there's really no basis for Rossello's resignation. The transcripts don't reveal anything criminal or trace corruption in Rossello's administration to the governor himself. Rossello has been offensive, but that in itself isn't a cause for resignation.

While the energy of some Puerto Ricans directed to toppling Rossello, it might be directed towards solving Puerto Rico's endemic problems: an unreliable power grid and an overdependence on the public sector for jobs, to name two.

Certainly part of the private-sector solution in Puerto Rico is tourism, and cruise tourism in particular.

To their credit, Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line have maintained their Sunday turnarounds of the Freedom of the Seas and the Carnival Fascination, respectively. Campos said those operations will generate an economic impact of $1.3 million.

Puerto Ricans with the island's enduring interests at heart hope those calls continue. Rossello has already announced he is resigning as his party's leader and will not be a candidate in the island's 2020 elections. Although it may not be as satisfying as a forced resignation, the best thing Puerto Ricans can do now is to muddle through until his term is up.


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