Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced on Sunday, July 21, that he is not going to pursue re-election but has declined to resign as accusations of corruption have prompted extensive demonstrations in San Juan.
Rosselló, a Democrat, delivered a four-minute Facebook clip of the announcement on Sunday. He also said he agreed with the right of the people to protest and was willing to confront the process of impeachment that had already begun in the Puerto Rican Legislature.
The governor said although he will not resign as the island’s leader, he will step down as head of his pro-statehood party.
Rosselló recognized his “mistakes” in the video and pointed out he had apologized in the past. In Sunday’s video, he did not offer a formal apology.
After leaked online chats showed him insulting women and political opponents as well as mocking victims of Hurricane Maria, one of the most devastating natural disasters to hit the island territory, many Puerto Ricans called for Rosselló’s resignation.
“I hear you,” he said the brief video. “I have made mistakes and I have apologized.”
This week his official residence has been under siege as hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered outside La Fortaleza.
Last Friday, a surge of protests struck the island with union employees marching from the neighboring coast to La Fortaleza. The march was also attended by horseback riders and hundreds of other individuals.
Puerto Rico prepares for massive protest to expel governor
Puerto Rico braced early Monday for what many people expected to be one of the biggest protests ever seen in the U.S. territory to drive Rosselló from office.
Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to take over one of the island’s busiest highways Monday morning to press demands for the resignation of the governor.
“The people are not going to go away,” said Johanna Soto, of the northeastern city of Carolina. “That’s what he’s hoping for, but we outnumber him.”
Monday would be the 10th successive day of demonstrations, and subsequently in the coming week more were called for. Plaza de las Américas, the largest mall on the island, closed in front of the protest as did dozens of other businesses.
Rosselló was elected governor in November 2016 with nearly 50% of the vote, and he had already announced his intention to seek a second term. A graduate of MIT with a doctorate in genetics, he is the son of former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rosselló, who flew to the island to marshal support after the chat was made public.
The upheaval comes as the U.S. territory is struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria and trying to restructure part of $70 billion in debt amid a 13-year recession in this territory of more than 3 million American citizens who do not have full representation in Congress or a vote for president.
The governor belongs to the New Progressive Party, which seeks statehood for the island, and he is also a Democrat.
NOW: Tear gas being used in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico where protesters had surrounded the entrance/exit to a govt complex where several officials have been hold up since meeting with Governor, earlier tonight. pic.twitter.com/suUPJzcuCD
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 22, 2019
Includes reporting from the Associated Press