Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Roselló Resigns After Mass Protests

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After more than two weeks of mass protests calling for his ouster, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced on Wednesday that he will be resigning from his position, effective August 2.

In his announcement, which Rosselló made in a video posted to Facebook, he said that Wanda Vázquez, the secretary of justice, would be his successor.

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“We raised the salary of teachers in the middle of a bankruptcy,” he said.

“The results are what most matter, and they are favorable results in the worst scenario imaginable,” he added.

Rosselló’s resignation comes two weeks after the FBI arrested two of his former senior officials and four other suspects for misusing government funds to pay politically-connected contractors. Specifically, the officials allegedly misdirected $15.5 million total between 2017 and 2019, according to the indictment via the Washington Post, which implicates Julia Keleher, the former education secretary, and Ángela Ávila-Marrero, the former executive director of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration.

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Days later, a report from Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism incensed Puerto Ricans, revealing hundreds of private messages between Rosselló and officials in which they called other officials profane language, and joked about the people who died in Hurricane Maria. From Sophie Weiner in our previous post on the messages, emphasis mine:

Though Rosselló was not implicated directly in the corruption charges, he was tainted by the chat messages in which he participated. In one message, Rosselló’s former chief financial officer Christian Sobrino said of San Juan Mayor Yulín Cruz, “I am salivating to shoot her.”

“You do me a favor,” Rosselló responded.

[...]

All 11 members of the group chat were men. In addition to the threat against Cruz, it included a chat in which Rosselló called Melissa Mark-Viverito, the former New York City Council speaker, a whore.

In another message, Sobrino joked about the backlog of dead bodies from the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“Now that we are on the subject, don’t we have some cadavers to feed our crows?” he wrote, apparently in a reference to critics of the administration. “Clearly they need attention.” 

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Rosselló asked for forgiveness at the time, but Puerto Ricans rallied against the corruption charges and the insulting language, demanding that the governor resign. Last week, protesters broke into a barricade at the governor’s mansion and were met by rubber bullets from police. The protests continued this week, filling the streets and demanding Rosselló step down.

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On Sunday, Rosselló said that he would no longer seek reelection in 2020, but that he wouldn’t resign. However, rumors of his resignation percolated early Wednesday, with Puerto Rico House Speaker Johnny Méndez saying that Rosselló had until today to decide whether he would resign, threatening to begin the impeachment process against him if he doesn’t, according to CBS national correspondent David Begnaud.

“My only North Star has been the well-being of my island,” Rosselló said in the announcement.

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“After the birth of my son, this is the happiest day of my life,” said the rapper Residente, also known as René Pérez Joglar.

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Samantha Grasso

Splinter Staff Writer, Texan