Puerto Rico’s embattled governor says he will not resign in the face of public outrage over an obscenity-laced leaked online chat that sparked violent protests but he will not seek re-election and will step down as head of his party.
A day before a planned general strike and more demonstrations in the U.S. island territory, Ricardo Rossello said he respected the wishes of Puerto Ricans and would not run for another term in 2020 elections.
He also said he would resign as head of his New Progressive Party but would remain as governor until the end of his term.
‘I know that apologizing is not enough. It is only my work that will help restore the confidence of those sectors on the way to true reconciliation,’ Rossello said in a Facebook Live video.
Protesters said they were not satisfied by Rosselló’s concessions, and pledged to continue demonstrations that have filled the streets of Old San Juan for more than a week.
Hundreds of viewers also posted angry messages on his brief video message.
Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rossello said on Sunday in a Facebook Live video that he will not run for another term in 2020 elections following the public outrage after his vulgar online chats were leaked on July 13
He has been facing public outrage – and sometimes violent protests – over leaked vulgar messages between himself and allies.
In the online chats published on July 13, the center-right governor and his allies referred to politicians, celebrities and ordinary Puerto Ricans in misogynistic, homophobic and vulgar terms.
Anger over the messages has tapped into simmering resentment over Rossello’s handling of devastating 2017 hurricanes, allegations of corruption in his administration and the island’s fragile recovery from bankruptcy.
Public outrage sent hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans marching to Rossello’s official residence in colonial Old San Juan in recent days demanding his resignation.
Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative to the U.S. Congress, as well as Democratic presidential candidates and some Republican lawmakers also demanded he step down over the leaked messages.
The speaker of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives set up an independent panel on Friday to investigate whether the chats constituted crimes or warranted impeachment.
He gave the panel 10 days to deliver their findings.
Protesters said they were not satisfied by Rosselló’s concessions, and pledged to continue demonstrations that have filled the streets of Old San Juan for more than a week
Public outrage sent hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans marching to Rossello’s official residence in colonial Old San Juan in recent days demanding his resignation
About 200-300 people from the North Texas Puerto Rican community gather to protest Gov. Ricardo Rossello outside the Adobo Puerto Rican Cafe in Irving, Texas on Sunday
Anger over the messages has tapped into simmering resentment over Rossello’s handling of devastating 2017 hurricanes, allegations of corruption in his administration and the island’s fragile recovery from bankruptcy
In his brief Facebook video, Rossello also said he looked forward to defending himself against the process of impeachment.
‘I have to respect the constitutional order and welcome the process started by the legislative assembly, which I will confront with all truth and force in a responsible way,’ Rossello said in the video.
The 889 pages of chat on the encrypted app Telegram between the governor and 11 close allies and members of his administration – all of whom are men – showed them insulting women and mocking constituents.
Hundreds of thousands of outraged Puerto Ricans have marched to Rossello’s official residence in the largest protest movement on the island since Puerto Ricans successfully demonstrated to demand an end to U.S. Navy military training on the island of Vieques more than 15 years ago.
The upheaval comes as the U.S. territory is struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria and trying to restructure part of $70 billion in debt amid a 13-year recession in this territory more than 3 million American citizens who do not have full representation in Congress or a vote for president.
‘Today, I have the great responsibility to direct my efforts, and those of my administration, to keep searching for ways and means for us, united before God, to be able to keep guiding our island,’ the governor said.
Demonstrators bang on pots from the balcony of their apartment as they protest against governor Ricardo Rossello
He has been facing public outrage – and sometimes violent protests – over leaked vulgar messages between himself and allies
Demonstrators in kayaks gathered in front of La Fortaleza for an aquatic protest against Rossello in San Juan on Sunday
On Monday morning, tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans were expected to take over one of the island’s main highways to demand Rossello’s resignation as legislators considered whether to take the first steps of the impeachment process.
Pressure on Rossello to step down has grown throughout the week as the chorus calling for his resignation grew to include Puerto Rico music superstars Ricky Martin, Bad Bunny and Residente and a string of U.S. politicians including Congress members from both parties, several Democratic presidential candidates and Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in Congress.
Rossello was elected governor in November 2016 with nearly 50 percent of the vote, and he had already announced his intention to seek a second term. A graduate of MIT with a doctorate in genetics, he is the son of former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello, who flew to the island to marshal support after the chat was made public.
The governor belongs to the New Progressive Party, which seeks statehood for the island, and he is also a Democrat. Most of his time has been spent seeking federal funds since Hurricane Maria devastated the island on Sept. 20, 2017, and battling austerity measures implemented by a federal control board that Congress set up to oversee the island government’s finances.
The upheaval against Rossello prompted at least four cruise ships to cancel visits to Puerto Rico, and many officials worry about the impact a resignation would have on the already fragile economy as the island rebuilds from Maria, a Category 4 storm that caused more than an estimated $100 billion in damage.
Another concern is the recent string of arrests involving federal corruption charges targeting Puerto Rico officials, among them two former agency heads, including former education secretary Julia Keleher.