Puerto Rico governor announces resignation on Facebook

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló: Resignation effective Aug. 2

By Christian De La Rosa - Reporter, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - After Puerto Rican legislators threatened to impeach Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, he announced his resignation just before midnight on Facebook Live, saying it will be effective Aug. 2. 

Rosselló, who was elected in 2016, also resigned from his position as president of the New Progressive Party on Sunday. He will not be seeking reelection in 2020. 

"The demands have been overwhelming,"  Rosselló said in Spanish. "I have received them with the highest degree of humility."

About two years after taking over as justice secretary, Wanda Vázquez will be taking over as governor of Puerto Rico during the transitional period.

The 59-year-old former district attorney has limited experience leading state agencies. She worked for Puerto Rico's department of housing in the 1980s and in 2010 was appointed director of the Office for Women's Rights. 

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

People celebrate after news that Gov. Ricardo Rossello is stepping down on July 24, 2019 in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

There was joy early Thursday morning in the streets around the governor's mansion in Old San Juan. There was dancing and "Olé, Olé, Olé" celebratory chants. For a moment, thousands chanted in unison: "The people united will never be defeated." 

The announcement did not appease the large crowds. They say they want to clean house. Vázquez faced two ethical violations when she allegedly intervened in a case of theft of government property. A judge ruled there was insufficient evidence. 

 

 

During the last two weeks, the "#RickyRenuncia" protest has been relentless and mostly peaceful. There were candlelight vigils, marches, a strike on a main highway and plenty of rainbow flags to represent the LGBTQ community.

Ricky Martin, Calle 12's Residente and trap artist Bad Bunny were among the many celebrities who joined the historic effort. 

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Rapper Residente (R) celebrates with other protesters after news that Gov. Ricardo Rossello is stepping down on July 24, 2019 in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

There is an investigation pending on Rosselló. A judge issued search warrants for the mobile phones of the officials whose messages were leaked July 13 by the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism.

The 889 pages of private discussions on the messaging app Telegram included mentions of government contracts and insensitive references to the victims of 2017's Hurricane Maria.

The protesters were also angry about the misogynistic, homophobic, fatphobic and sexist commentary. There were threats of political repression. There was a discussion about a plot to destabilize the University of Puerto Rico, and Rosselló even referred to a woman as a "whore."

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

People celebrate as Ricardo Rossello, the Governor of Puerto Rico, announces he is stepping down from power on July 24, 2019 in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Vázquez released a statement saying the content of the chats saddened her.

"I have to express the deep regret this causes me as a woman, as a mother, as a professional and as a citizen of this beautiful island," Vázquez said. 

The outrage over the messages also prompted the resignations of Rosselló's chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi, former Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín, who would have been the first in line to assume the governorship, and former Chief Financial Officer Christian Sobrino. 

The messages were published just days after the FBI arrested two of his Cabinet members on accusations of public corruption in a case involving $15.5 million in federal funds. When the announcement was made, Vázquez vowed to help U.S. authorities to fight corruption. 

Julia Keleher, the former secretary of the Department of Education, and Angela Avila-Marrero, the former Health Insurance Administration secretary, were accused of favoritism when it came to contracts that involved federal funding. 

The corruption cases came as Puerto Ricans were struggling with a recession and recovering from Hurricane Maria. Officials were dealing with $70 billion in debt. The economic crisis prompted more than 1.2 million Puerto Ricans to move to Florida. Some traveled back to protest in San Juan and those who couldn't participated in small demonstrations in Miami-Dade County. 

THE ANNOUNCEMENT (Spanish)

Copyright 2019 by WPLG Local10.com - All rights reserved.