SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Amid public outrage, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced Sunday evening that he will not be seeking reelection, and he is resigning as president of the New Progressive Party.
Rosselló, 40, delivered a statement on Facebook after a week of protests and a threat by opponents to shut down a major highway leading to Old San Juan on Monday.
“In spite of everything, I recognize that apologizing isn’t enough, that only my work will help restore confidence," he said in Spanish, adding that he had made his decision to step down because of his "profound respect of democracy."
His resignation comes after the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism published the obscene content of a Telegram app private chat on July 13 in 889 pages. The explosive revelation came after two prominent July 10 arrests in a $15.5 million public corruption case.
GUAYNABO, PUERTO RICO - JULY 21: Police officers push back protesters from a parking lot gate to allow politicians to leave after a meeting with Ricardo Rossello, the governor of Puerto Rico, at the Yolanda Guerrero Cultural center on July 21, 2019 in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. Protesters have called for the governor to step down after it was revealed that he and top aides were part of a private chat group that contained misogynistic and homophobic messages. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
FBI agents arrested his former Education Secretary Julia Keleher and the former head of Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration Angela Avila Marrero in a fraud involving federal funds, according to a 32-count indictment.
"I'm not proud of what I did," Rosselló said in a statement last week, adding that he had committed "an improper act" but he was not involved in any way in the corruption case.
The messages on the chat were between him and his top aides. Critics classified the content as sexist, homophobic, misogynistic and insensitive to the victims of Hurricane Maria, which struck eight months after Rosselló's election.
The devastation of the storm came amid a 13-year recession and an already fragile electric grid. Experts said it wasn't a surprise that the explosive revelations' of Rosselló's chat prompted massive protests in front of the governor's official residence.
A long list of celebrities, including Ricky Martin, Calle 13' Rene "Residente" Perez, Benito "Bad Bunny" Martinez and Manuel Miranda, joined the protests in San Juan and New York City to demand Rosselló's resignation.
The protests continued late Sunday night and residents in San Juan were making noise with pots and pans from their homes as part of a "Cacerolazo" protest. Rosselló decision not to step down comes as legislators are looking into the possibility of impeaching him.
"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," Rosselló said.
Rosselló, the son of former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rosselló, is working to restructure some of the $70 billion debt.
Local 10 News reporter Christian De La Rosa reported from San Juan this week.
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Tomorrow could bring a turning point for Puerto Ricans seeking to force their Governor to resign #rickyrenuncia Protesters plan to shut down the city’s major highways. Plaza Las Américas, the largest mall on the island, is shutting down ahead of it. The governor has called an emergency meeting according to @elnuevodia #puertorico #miami #protests #lgbt