HEAT ALERT

Extreme heat blankets the region with heat advisory, air quality alert issued for the Hudson Valley

Puerto Rico's governor to quit Aug. 2 in face of protests

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced late Wednesday that he will resign Aug. 2, conceding power after nearly two weeks of furious protests and political upheaval.

News 12 Staff

Jul 25, 2019, 10:45 AM

Updated 1,790 days ago

Share:

By DÁNICA COTO
Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced late Wednesday that he will resign Aug. 2, conceding power after nearly two weeks of furious protests and political upheaval touched off by a leak of crude and insulting chat messages between him and his top advisers.
A crowd of thousands outside the governor's mansion in Old San Juan erupted into cheers and singing after Rosselló's announcement on Facebook just before midnight.
"My only priority has been the transformation of our island and the well-being of our people," a shaken-looking Rosselló said in an address that listed his accomplishments before making clear he was resigning. Addressing the protests, Rosselló said, "The demands have been overwhelming and I've received them with highest degree of humility."
The 40-year-old son of a former governor, Rosselló became the first chief executive to resign in the modern history of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of more than 3 million American citizens without full representation in Congress or the right to vote for president.
Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez will assume the post less than halfway through Rosselló's four-year term, becoming Puerto Rico's second female governor.
"It's historic, but we have to be cautious. What will happen beyond this? There are concerns, but there is also hope," designer Jalil Serrano said. Gesturing to the young crowd outside the mansion, he said, "This belongs to them."
Daniel López, a businessman also in the protest, wiped tears from his eyes as people leaped into the air, beat drums, waved flags, hugged and cried, "We did it!"
"This is for the future of my family," López said. "It's big, what's happened."
Rosselló's announcement came after a bizarre, hours-long standoff unfolded in colonial Old San Juan, as the governor pledged to deliver a message to the people of Puerto Rico, then passed hour after hour in unexplained silence while thousands of protesters chanted demands for his resignation.
An announcement was first expected at 5 p.m., then finally came less than a half-hour before midnight.
"Despite expecting to service the term that the people democratically elected me to, today I feel that continuing in this position represents a threat to the success we have achieved," Rosselló said.
Puerto Rico Rep. Gabriel Rodríguez, a member of Rosselló's pro-statehood party, told The Associated Press that legislators had initially agreed to set aside the impeachment process and give the governor until 5 p.m. to announce that he was going to resign. The president of Puerto Rico's House of Representatives issued the embattled governor an ultimatum: Either take the best decision for a U.S. territory demanding his resignation or face an impeachment process.
At one point, dozens of officers in full riot gear marched out of the governor's mansion toward protesters.
"We want peace, and they want war!" the crowd yelled as many became increasingly frustrated.
Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have been outraged by the online chats between Rosselló and his advisers, and have protested for nearly two weeks demanding his resignation.
The chat participants discussed the awarding of government contracts in ways that some observers called potentially illegal. They also insulted women and mocked constituents, including victims of Hurricane Maria. Rosselló called a female politician a "whore," referred to another as a "daughter of a bitch," and made fun of an obese man with whom he posed in a photo.
On Tuesday, officials announced that a Puerto Rico judge had issued search warrants for the cellphones of government officials involved in the chat as part of an investigation. One of the search warrants said officials used the chat to transmit official and confidential information to private citizens in potential violation of ethics laws.
More than a dozen government officials have resigned since the chat was leaked earlier this month, including Rosselló confidant and chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi, former Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín and former chief financial officer Christian Sobrino, who also held five other positions.
The obscenity-laced online messages involving the governor and 11 other men infuriated Puerto Ricans already frustrated with corruption, mismanagement, economic crisis and the sluggish recovery from Hurricane Maria nearly two years ago.
In reaction, tens of thousands took to the streets to demand Rosselló's resignation in Puerto Rico's biggest demonstrations since the protests that put an end to U.S. Navy training on the island of Vieques more than 15 years ago.
Under Puerto Rico's constitution, the secretary of state would normally assume the governorship, but since Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín became one of more than a dozen officials to resign in the uproar over the leak, leadership of the island falls to Vázquez.
Over the weekend, Rosselló posted a video on Facebook in which he announced he would not seek re-election in 2020 or continue as head of his pro-statehood political party, but his refusal to resign further angered Puerto Ricans and led to a colossal demonstration Monday on one of the capital's main highways.
Pressure on Rosselló to step down included calls from Puerto Rico music stars Ricky Martin, Bad Bunny and Residente and a string of U.S. politicians, including members of Congress from both parties and several Democratic presidential candidates.
The upheaval comes as the island tries to restructure part of $70 billion in debt and cope with a 13-year recession that has led to an exodus of nearly half a million people to the U.S. mainland in the past decade. Many Puerto Ricans are resentful over the resulting pension cuts, school closings and other austerity measures.
The economic crisis is in part a result of previous administrations - including that of Rosselló's father, Pedro - that overspent, overestimated revenue and borrowed millions as the island sank deeper into debt. In 2017, Puerto Rico filed for the equivalent of bankruptcy. Congress approved a financial package, and a federal board is overseeing the island's finances.
An MIT graduate with a doctorate in genetics, Rosselló spent much of his time as governor fighting austerity measures and seeking federal funds after Maria devastated the island in September 2017, causing thousands of deaths and more than $100 billion in damage.
Nearly two years later, some 30,000 homes still have tarp roofs, power outages remain common, and Puerto Rico has received less than a third of the roughly $40 billion pledged by the U.S. government. Rosselló complained earlier this year of unfair treatment and a hostile attitude from some U.S. officials.
The public's confidence has also been rocked by a recent string of corruption arrests involving such figures as the island's former education secretary and the one-time chief of health services.
___
Associated Press writers Mariela Santos in San Juan and Michael Weissenstein in Havana contributed to this report.
Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


More from News 12
2:18
HEAT ALERT: Sizzling temperatures continue, heat advisory extended in the Hudson Valley

HEAT ALERT: Sizzling temperatures continue, heat advisory extended in the Hudson Valley

1:49
Yonkers police find no validity in alleged bomb threat

Yonkers police find no validity in alleged bomb threat

0:45
Veteran Westchester firefighter dies after two-year battle with 9/11-related cancer

Veteran Westchester firefighter dies after two-year battle with 9/11-related cancer

1:29
Police: 1 of 2 students involved in Bedford car crash dies from injuries

Police: 1 of 2 students involved in Bedford car crash dies from injuries

1:52
Asbestos discovery in East Ramapo schools prompts parents, NYCLU to rally

Asbestos discovery in East Ramapo schools prompts parents, NYCLU to rally

1:28
Emergency room doctor discusses how to prevent health issues related to high temps

Emergency room doctor discusses how to prevent health issues related to high temps

1:35
Carmel schools dismissing early for the week because of extreme heat

Carmel schools dismissing early for the week because of extreme heat

1:33
59-year-old Marlboro woman stabbed outside of watermelon truck in Newburgh

59-year-old Marlboro woman stabbed outside of watermelon truck in Newburgh

1:38
Poughkeepsie sustainable farmers race against heat to protect themselves, crops

Poughkeepsie sustainable farmers race against heat to protect themselves, crops

2:07
Hudson Valley braces for heat advisory, cooling centers open

Hudson Valley braces for heat advisory, cooling centers open

0:42
Danskammer Energy drops plan for new methane gas plant in Newburgh

Danskammer Energy drops plan for new methane gas plant in Newburgh

1:41
Police: Justin Timberlake charged with DWI in Sag Harbor

Police: Justin Timberlake charged with DWI in Sag Harbor

2:39
Made in the Hudson Valley: Loola Doola Boutique brings one-of-a-kind, handmade clutches to Westchester County

Made in the Hudson Valley: Loola Doola Boutique brings one-of-a-kind, handmade clutches to Westchester County

0:42
Headlines: Cold case guilty plea, Poughkeepsie crash injures 3

Headlines: Cold case guilty plea, Poughkeepsie crash injures 3

0:20
Parents, advocates rally to save East Ramapo schools after asbestos discovery

Parents, advocates rally to save East Ramapo schools after asbestos discovery

0:18
Fire engulfs car on Old Nyack Turnpike in Ramapo

Fire engulfs car on Old Nyack Turnpike in Ramapo

0:46
Dutchess County autism center receives $3 million in state funding

Dutchess County autism center receives $3 million in state funding

0:25
Mario Cuomo Bridge to shine blue and white for students who named falcon chicks

Mario Cuomo Bridge to shine blue and white for students who named falcon chicks

14:52:13
13 cool tips to help you stay healthy during the summer heat

13 cool tips to help you stay healthy during the summer heat

2:04
John Oliver eats giant Deising's cake bear, pledges $10K donation to Peoples' Place of Kingston, NY

John Oliver eats giant Deising's cake bear, pledges $10K donation to Peoples' Place of Kingston, NY