Governor Ricardo Rosselló resigns
After nearly 12 straight days of protests demanding his resignation, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló (NPP, D), has announced his resignation effective August 2. With his resignation, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez Garced is next in line for the governorship of the United States territory, presumably becoming the second woman to do so. This is the first time in Puerto Rico’s modern history that a governor resigns.
The resignation comes on the same day the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico was set to begin the impeachment process, after a panel of jurists appointed by House Speaker Johnny Mendez unanimously recommended impeachment based on at least 5 charges of law violations. The governor had also reached a deal with the New Progressive Party caucus that he would resign by 5:00 pm on July, and by as late as 11:00pm had failed to do so, prompting the speaker to call for a special session to formally being the impeach process. The day had also been full of speculation, mishaps, and fumbles, including a last minute press conference called by the governor’s office, which was delayed by more than an hour and a half, only for it to turn into a one line statement by the Secretary of Public Affairs.
Protests erupted in Puerto Rico following the leaks of Rosselló’s private group chat with several of his closest associates, in which profane, homophobic, misogynist, and threatening language was used by the governor himself and his associates against journalists, artists, and political opponents, among others. In addition, top officials in his administration were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for wire fraud charges, including former Secretary of Education Julia Keleher.
500,000 people marched last night thru Old San Juan demanding that Puerto Rico’s Governor resign, according to an @ElNuevoDia estimate
660,510 people voted to put Rosselló in office; he got 41.80% of the vote
An overwhelming majority want him to resignhttps://t.co/NJNYaF4ACK
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 19, 2019
While Rosselló had initially refused to resign, pledging to continue work as he was elected to do, public pressure kept mounting, and protests growing in size, with the territory-wide strike of July 22 having an estimated 500,000–1,000,000 participants. Protests also happened across the nation, with videos on social media showing large crowds in Miami, Washington, DC and New York calling for Rosselló’s resignation. The scale of the protests was such that even national figures like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts, Senator Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) of New York joined in the calls for Rosselló to resign. President Donald Trump was also asked about the issue, when he used the opportunity to attack Rosselló, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz (PDP), and to once again lie about the amount of aid Puerto Rico has received after Hurricane Maria. July 23 also saw the front covers of every single major national newspaper focused on Puerto Rico and the massive march calling for the governor’s resignation.
Over the course of the past two weeks, the governor had lost support of key figures within his party, including his ballot running mate Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (NPP, R), who asked for his resignation along with figures like former governor Luis Fortuño (NPP, R), Bayamón Mayor Ramon Luis Rivera (NPP), Senator Zoé Laboy (NPP, D), and Ponce Mayor Mayita Meléndez Altieri (NPP, D). Senate President Thomás Rivera Schatz had also asked that all individuals who participated in the chat resigned, but stopped short of calling for Rosselló’s resignation outright. Rivera Schatz took over the presidency of the New Progressive Party on an interim basis after Rosselló announced he would step down as head of the party, and would not seek reelection in 2020.
3/3 We continue to urge Ricardo Rosselló to resign as Governor. pic.twitter.com/UMtvOWgTww
— Mayita Meléndez (@mayitaalcaldesa) July 21, 2019
With the resignation, it is yet to be seen whether protests will continue, given the effective date, and that Vazquez Garced has been previously tied to corruption issues, and has been subject to criticism, including from Rivera Schatz, for, among other things, not aggressively prosecuting corruption within the Rosselló administration.