Puerto Rico’s embattled governor Ricardo Roselló has announced he will step down on Aug. 2 after a series of homophobic and sexist texts were leaked.
It follows nearly two weeks of massive demonstrations outside the governor’s mansion by angry and frustrated citizens who saw him and his administration as corrupt and unable to govern effectively.
The last straw was the release of hundreds of leaked group text messages between the governor and nine other members of his administration containing crude and offensive jokes, as well as a number of sexist and homophobic statements about women, political opponents, journalists, and even openly gay singer Ricky Martin.
The leaked chat messages, 889 pages of which were published by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, shattered Roselló’s image as a clean-cut, upstanding family man, irreparably damaging his reputation, which had already been battered by his ineffectual response to several crises facing the island since taking office in 2017.
Under Roselló’s watch, Puerto Rico’s government has struggled with bankruptcy, and, just prior to his taking office, had been forced to cede a significant amount of its power to a financial oversight board, known colloquially as “La Junta,” tasked with resolving the territory’s debt crisis.
Just months later, Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, which left Puerto Ricans without power for months and saw thousands of people perish either during or in the aftermath of the storm. Many blamed Roselló — in addition to the federal government — for the inadequate response to, and lack of preparations ahead of, the hurricane.
Then, just before the text messages were released, the FBI arrested Roselló’s former secretary of education and five others for allegedly steering federal money to unqualified, but politically connected, contractors.
In a video message posted to Facebook on Wednesday evening, Roselló announced his intention to step down, just days after saying he’d stay in office until the end of his term but would not run for re-election in 2020.
In the speech, Roselló defended the decisions he made while in office, whil also saying he did not wish to imperil the progress that had been made by staying in office — a nod to the fact that Puerto Rico’s Congress had already begun planning for impeachment hearings against him.
“My only priority has been the transformation of our island and the well-being of our people,” he said. “The demands have been overwhelming and I’ve received them with highest degree of humility.”
Rosselló’s post will be filled for the remainder of his term by Wanda Vázquez, his secretary of justice, due to the fact that the person next in the line of succession — former secretary of state Luis Rivera Marín — had previously resigned after it was revealed he was among the officials who took part in the group text chat, reports the Miami Herald.
The LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD congratulated the activists — and several Puerto Rican artists and celebrities who had encouraged them — who demonstrated and demanded the governor’s resignation in a tweet.
“Congratulations to the people of Puerto Rico and activists and artists like @PedroJulio, @ricky_martin, @wcruz73 and Bad Bunny who led a peaceful and successful protest against Rosselló’s misogyny and homophobia.”
Congratulations to the people of Puerto Rico and activists and artists like @PedroJulio, @ricky_martin, @wcruz73 and Bad Bunny who led a peaceful and successful protest against Rosselló's misogyny and homophobia.https://t.co/996EDqftym
— GLAAD (@glaad) July 25, 2019