Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Roselló is stepping down after days of massive demonstrations over crude and offensive jokes he and his buddies made in secret chats. He will leave his post on Aug. 2, he said late Wednesday in a video message broadcast on Facebook.
A crowd that had been calling out #RickyRenuncia, or “Ricky quit,” outside the governor’s mansion for hours broke out in cheers after Roselló’s announcement. The chat communications, revealed by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism July 13, appeared to be the last straw for many on the island.
The resignation had been expected earlier in the day, during a press conference Roselló called and later cancelled. The head of the island’s House of Representatives had already called an extraordinary session (links in Spanish) on Thursday to start the process, which according to the Puerto Rican constitution can be carried out in case of “treason, bribery, other serious crimes, and those lesser crimes that imply depravation.”
Since Roselló took office in 2017, his administration was forced to declare bankruptcy, and handed over significant powers to a US Congress-created board that is negotiating with creditors on its behalf. A few months later came Hurricane María, a natural and manmade disaster that devastated the island. Roselló’s bungled response left Puerto Ricans without power for months and contributed to thousands of deaths.
That’s in addition to the federal government’s own slow and inadequate response to the storm and the humiliation of having US president Donald Trump throw paper-towel rolls at hurricane survivors (among other Trump-inflicted indignities).
Then earlier this month, the FBI arrested former members of the Roselló administration on charges of misdirecting public funds to cronies.
All that pent-up frustration and outrage erupted with the chat revelations, which also suggest the governor and his crew misused public funds to promote their party and shared privileged government information. The protests were massive and diverse. Puerto Ricans found a variety of ways to call for Roselló’s resignation, including from horseback and on jet skis, in yoga poses and through dancing. Some Puerto Ricans living abroad felt compelled to fly in last-minute to join in.
Under the constitution, the next in line for the governorship is the secretary of state, a post that has been empty since Luis Rivera Marín, one of the secret chat participants, stepped down. Next in line after that is justice secretary Wanda Vázquez. But it’s unclear the crowds will be happy with any member of Roselló’s party.
This post was updated July 25 at 12:00am ET after Roselló announced his resignation.