Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló Resigns After Protests

Ricardo Rosselló, Governor of Puerto Rico, has resigned, effective August 2, 2019. His resignation comes after more than 10 days of protests on the island. On July 13, text messages were leaked of the governor and 11 of his close, male allies insulting women and making fun of their constituents, including citizens who were victims of Hurricane Maria. Since the chats were leaked, there have been thousands of people demanding that Rosselló step down. In a Facebook video posted on July 21, Rosselló said he will not resign over the 889 pages of inappropriate texts, but said he would not seek re-election or continue as the head of the New Progressive Party.

“In spite of everything, I recognize that apologizing isn’t enough, that only my work will help restore confidence,” the governor said. “Facing that scenario, I announce to you that I will not seek re-election next year.”

On July 22, police reportedly broke up thousands of protestors on the streets of Old San Juan around 11 a.m. after a whole day of protests with over 500,000 demonstrators. Protestors were outraged that Governor Ricardo Rosselló refused to step down.

Puerto Rican celebrities like Ricky Martin and Daddy Yankee also joined the demonstrators to demand that Rosselló step down. There have also been anti-Rosselló protests held in New York and Boston. The protests are the largest on the island since Puerto Ricans protested to end US Navy training on the island of Vieques over 15 years ago. “In Puerto Rico we don’t follow dictators. It’s time for you to go,” Ricky Martin told demonstrators on July 22.

Even President Donald Trump called the governor “incompetent.” “He’s a terrible governor,” Trump said at the White House on July 22. “You have totally grossly incompetent leadership at the top of Puerto Rico.”

Other lawmakers like New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Bernie Sanders, and many others called on Rosselló to step down.

“The people of Puerto Rico have spoken loudly and clearly for the world to hear. We must stand with la isla. Rosselló must resign,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on July 19.

The people of Puerto Rico have spoken loudly and clearly for the world to hear.

We must stand with la isla. Rosselló must resign. https://t.co/X3hjnJBfA0

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 19, 2019

“Hundreds of thousands of people in Puerto Rico are demonstrating against corruption, Wall Street-imposed austerity, and decades of economic devastation. We stand with them: Governor Rosselló must resign. Puerto Rico needs new leadership and a new direction,” Sanders tweeted on July 22.

Representative Jenniffer González-Colón, the resident commissioner in Congress representing the island, also called onto the Rosselló to resign in an open letter on July 19.

“The events of the past two weeks have worsened, even more so over the last six days, paralyzing economic activity and government activity, portraying an anarchic Puerto Rico to the rest of the world,” González-Colón wrote.

“This is not sustainable.”

Roselló's father, former Governor Pedro Rosselló, stepped down from his positions within the New Progressive Party and disaffiliated himself from the party following the calls for resignation. Despite this, the governor said in his video he would defend himself against the process of impeachment as Puerto Rico’s legislature is exploring the possibility and is in its initial stages.

“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,” Rosselló said in the Facebook video.

On July 23, a Puerto Rican judge issued search warrants for Rosselló and the 11 other government officials whose encrypted online chats leaked as protests continue. Kelvin Carrasco, a spokesman for the island's Department of Justice, said the warrants were approved last night for those who have not turned over their phones.

On July 24, he finally announced his resignation, effective August 2, 2019. "I [now] end my term. The thing I want the most is peace and progress for our people," he explained.

Puerto Rico’s justice secretary, Wanda Vázquez, will assume the governor’s role.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.