Rosselló No beard

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. (Josian Bruno)

A day after Puerto Ricans flooded the streets demanding his resignation, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló insisted that he is listening “carefully” to the people despite his intention to remain in the position.

In his first statement after the massive demonstration, Rosselló recognized the legitimacy of the rally and repeated that he respects the right of the citizens to protest.

“The people are talking and I have to listen. This has been a moment of total reflection and I have made decisions responding to the concerns of the people,” the embattled politician said.

Rosselló also anticipated that future expressions will be about “the actions we are carrying out as part of our work agenda, as promised and expected by the people.”

The governor has been under intense pressure as demands for his resignation grow. In the midst of the relentless protests, on Sunday he announced via a brief Facebook video that he will not seek reelection and would step down as head of the pro-statehood party. He also promised to defend himself during impeachment proceedings.

The political storm began when Rosselló fired the Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado after he disclosed in a radio interview alleged crimes in his own department that were under investigation by federal authorities. The governor said that the dismissal responded to the loss of confidence since Maldonado never brought the situation to his attention. Maldonado’s son, Raúl Maldonado Gautier, refuted the governor and called him “corrupt”.

Shortly after, former Education Secretary Julia Keleher; former Executive Director of the Health Insurance Administration Ángela Ávila; the managing partner of BDO Fernando Scherrer, Alberto Velázquez Piñol, and sisters Glenda and Mayra Ponce were accused of government corruption.

A couple of days later, the Center for Investigative Journalism published 889 pages of the governor’s Telegram chat with aides and close allies.

Outrage erupted immediately due to the homophobic and misogynistic tone of the private conversations. In the chat, Rosselló calls one female politician a “whore,” describes another as a “daughter of a bitch” and pokes fun of an obese man he posed within a photo. The chat also contains vulgar references to Ricky Martin’s homosexuality and efforts to manipulate public opinion, discredit the work of a federal police monitor and journalists critical of Rosselló's administration.

Hours after the pages of the polemic chat were made public, two of its members resigned: the U.S. territory's CFO Christian Sobrino, who is also the governor's representative to the control board left his post immediately, but Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marín will leave at the end of the month.

In recent days, Rosselló’s press secretary Denisse Pérez resigned and Gerardo Portela, the president of the Economic Development Bank of Puerto Rico and executive director of the Housing Finance Authority also announced his departure.

Key allies have distanced themselves from Rossello creating doubts on his ability to stay in office until the end of his term.

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