Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello speaks as he announces his resignation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, early July 25, 2019. La Forteleza de Puerto Rico/Handout via REUTERS
SAN JUAN (Reuters) – Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló on Wednesday said he would resign after almost two weeks of protests calling for him to step down over a scandal involving offensive chat messages and government corruption that rocked the bankrupt island.
Rosselló said in a televised speech he would stay in his position until Aug. 2 when Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez would take over as governor.
The first-term governor announced his resignation three days after he failed on Sunday to soothe critics’ concerns by vowing not to seek re-election next year and giving up the leadership of his political party.
“I feel that to continue in this position would make it difficult for the success that I have achieved to endure,” Rosselló said.
His term as governor has seen the island hit with back-to-back 2017 hurricanes that killed about 3,000 people and wreaked widespread destruction just months after the U.S. territory filed for bankruptcy.
At-times violent protests have rocked San Juan and its historic colonial capital district since the July 13 release of leaked text messages between Rosselló and his closest allies, with an estimated 500,000 people attending the largest demonstration on Monday.
Rosselló faced the threat of an impeachment process after an independent panel of lawyers commissioned by the president of the lower house to investigate the messages found four felonies and one misdemeanor may have been committed in the chats, one of the lawyers, Luis Rodríguez-Rivera, said in an email.
House of Representatives President Johnny Mendez on Wednesday told reporters that the governor had the option of resigning or facing impeachment.
Reporting by Nick Brown in San Juan; Additional reporting by Marco Bello and Luis Valentin Ortiz in San Juan, Karen Pierog in Chicago and Rich McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Scott Malone and Andrew Hay; Editing by Leslie Adler, Matthew Lewis, Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry and Robert Birsel