Embattled Gov. Ricardo Rosselló-Nevares is resigning, becoming the first governor in Puerto Rico’s history not to end his term and to leave office pressured by hundreds of thousands of island residents and members of his own New Progressive Party.
However, his resignation will be effective Aug. 2, 2019, at 5 p.m. he said in a recorded message aired on Facebook.
“I have listened to the claims, spoken with my family, thought about my children and in prayer, I have decided to resign from this post effective Aug. 2, at 5 p.m.,” Rosselló said.
The constitutional line of succession establishes that Rosselló will be replaced by Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez. He offered a pre-recorded message late Wednesday.
Rosselló is stepping down following nearly two weeks of widespread public protests following the July 10 arrests on corruption charges of six former government officials — including ex-Education Secretary Julia Keleher and the former head of the Health Services Administration, Ángela Ávila.
The administration continued to unravel after the release on July 13 by the Center for Investigative Journalism of 889 pages of a profanity-laced chat on the Telegram app that included the governor and 11 of his closest collaborators, in which he insulted women and members of the LGBTT community, and made fun of Hurricane María’s dead, among other offenses.
Rosselló became Puerto Rico’s 12th elected governor and took office in January 2017. But the arrests and content of the chat unleashed a wave of indignation and demands that Rosselló resign, with protests throughout the island.
As the manifestations intensified, on July 21 Rosselló announced in a recorded message posted on his Facebook page that he would not seek re-election and that he would be stepping down as president of the NPP. However, he reiterated his intention to remain in his position as governor.
Thousands have protested every night over most of the past two weeks at the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza, in Old San Juan, calling for his immediate ouster. On Monday, more than 500,000 people gathered at one of San Juan’s main highways, shutting it down this week, apparently fueled by Rosselló’s unwillingness to step down.
The panorama has also drawn concern from private sector executives and trade groups, which increasingly called for Rosselló resignation, for the sake of protecting the island’s economy both in the short- and long-term. Lawmakers and mayors from his political party as well as from the opposing Popular Democratic Party also called for Rosselló to step down.