Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló faces calls to resign after private chats leaked, revealing the men mocking women and victims of Hurricane Maria.
Just the FAQs, USA TODAY

SAN JUAN – A spokesman for the governor of Puerto Rico on Wednesday tamped down expectations that Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation was imminent despite widespread media reports that he would quit amid a torrent of protests over vulgar, mean-spirited texting conversations.

A final decision will be “officially communicated” when it has been made, Rosselló spokesman Anthony Maceira told NotiUno 360.

“Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares has not resigned,” Maceira said. “As he said yesterday, he is in a process of reflection and listening to the people.”

Puerto Rico House Speaker Johnny Méndez said he informed Rosselló that impeachment proceedings to remove the governor from office have begun. Méndez was among several politicians disparaged in the texts.

El Nuevo Día reported that Rosselló was planning to announce his resignation as soon as noon Wednesday. Fox News reported that Rosselló had already recorded a video of his resignation.

If Rosselló quits, Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez would be his successor because the secretary of state position is vacant. Luis Rivera Marín, one of the closest associates of Rosselló, resigned that post July 13 after the leak of 889 pages of private messages on Telegram between the governor and high-ranking officials.

It is possible, however, that a new secretary of state could be installed before Rosselló formally steps down.

A judge issued search warrants Tuesday for the cellphones of government officials tied to the two-week scandal. Every day brought more resignations and hints that criminal charges could follow. Rosselló chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi quit Tuesday, citing threats to his family.

Tens of thousands of protesters shut down streets in the Hato Rey section of San Juan on Monday to demand Rosselló’s resignation. Smaller rallies have taken place almost daily for two weeks.

Rosselló resigned the presidency of his political party a few days ago, also announcing that he would not run in next year’s gubernatorial election. His place at the head of the New Progressive Party, the island’s most influential, will be taken by Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz.

“To those who vote for our party, your trust and support is our most valuable asset,” Schatz said in statement. “We will do our part to never let them down. We are counting on all of you.”

But he had balked at resigning as governor, saying he was focused on completing the island’s recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Maria and on battling political corruption.

In a brief statement Tuesday, however, he showed signs that he might walk away.

“The people are talking and I have to listen,” Rosselló said. “These have been moments of total reflection and of making decisions that are executed based on the concerns of the people of Puerto Rico and their best interests.”

Rosselló took office less than three years ago to much excitement, a young family man and son of a former governor. But the territory was already saddled in debt, and the devastation of Hurricane Maria less than a year into his term added to the strain on his government.

He drew rampant criticism for understating the death toll from the hurricane, and the recovery effort struggled. He also drew fire for failing to challenge President Donald Trump’s behavior when he visited the island, behavior viewed by many Puerto Ricans as arrogant and dismissive.

More recently, charges of political corruption within the government began to emerge. The texts were the final straw, Carlos A. Suárez Carrasquillo, a Puerto Rico native who lectures on Latin American at the University of Florida, told USA TODAY.  

“The final blow to his legacy came in the aftermath of the Telegram chats where his – and his staff’s – disparaging words against Puerto Ricans from all walks of life, a public policy of targeting political enemies,” he said. “And his unwillingness to hear the demands of the people make his case remarkable.”

Bacon reported from McLean, Va.