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Royal Caribbean Skips Calls in San Juan Due to Political Protests

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Protesters in San Juan (Adi / Twitter)

By The Maritime Executive 2019-07-17 19:26:03

After the recent release of hundreds of pages of offensive chat messages sent by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, demonstrators have gathered in Old San Juan to call for his resignation. The protests turned violent on Monday night, prompting an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI. Given circumstances on the ground, Royal Caribbean has elected to cancel at least two port calls in the city. 

“Due to the ongoing civil unrest in San Juan, Puerto Rico, we have canceled Harmony of the Seas’ call to San Juan. Harmony will now sail to St. Maarten, her next scheduled port of call. Concern for the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew members is our top priority," the cruise line said in a statement to media. 

The decision also affected the Empress of the Seas, which was scheduled to call San Juan on Tuesday. As of Wednesday evening, RCCL's Allure of the Seas was still on track to call San Juan on Thursday. 

Despite the scandal and the widespread calls for his resignation, Gov. Rossello has insisted that he will stay in his post, and he asserts that some of the offensive messages have been doctored. On Wednesday, Rossello's Twitter account shared everyday messages about government agricultural and parks programs, along with images of the governor at a cabinet meeting, but did not mention the political crisis. Outside the capitol building in Old San Juan, large and raucous protests continued.

The crisis is about more than words or tone: the disclosure of Rossello's profane messages follows shortly after two top leaders from his administration were indicted on federal corruption charges. Former education secretary Julia Keleher and public health insurance executive Angela Ávila-Marrero stand accused of diverting $15 million in government contracts to unqualified but well-connected firms. "Both Keleher and Ávila-Marrero took advantage of their privileged positions as agency chiefs. They defrauded the U.S. and Puerto Rican governments," U.S. Attorney for Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez said at a press conference last week.