BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH | Governor Ricardo Roselló announced his resignation late Wednesday night in a video posted on Facebook.
His resignation comes after mass public outcry on the island and impending impeachment proceedings. Three attorneys commissioned by Carlos Mendez Nunez, the president of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, found five different offenses meriting impeachment. According to The Daily Beast, the offenses include illicitly using public resources and services for partisan purposes and allowing contractors and officials to misuse public funds.
In the live-streamed message, Roselló said that his resignation would take effect Fri., Aug. 2.
The governor’s resignation comes after two weeks of mass protests on the island that saw an unprecedented number of people take to the streets. Islanders rode on motorcycles, horseback, jet skis and even took over a cruise ship in order to call on the embattled governor to step down. His announcement late on the evening of July 24 makes him the first governor to resign in the island’s history.
Protests were sparked after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism leaked 889 pages of text messages between Governor Roselló, cabinet members and 11 advisers that included homophobic and misogynistic remarks. The texts came shortly after two members of Roselló’s administration were arrested by the F.B.I. in connection with a corruption scandal.
Solidarity protests have also taken place around the globe. The most recent rally in New York City, on Mon., July 22, saw hundreds of members of the Puerto Rican diaspora and allies gather at Columbus Circle in the rain. They waved Puerto Rican flags, chanted, danced, banged on pots and pans, played panderos and guiros (tambourines and gourds) and danced, calling on the beleaguered governor to abdicate and to support those back on the island. Two other solidarity protests were held at Union Square the week before, with each protest larger than the last.
“The blanket of fear has been removed and people are coming together,” said Power Malu, from NY Boricua Resistance, one of the groups that organized solidarity protests in the city.
“This is not something new. This is a decades-long situation,” said Malu, a Lower East Sider, referring to political corruption and hardships the island has endured because of its colonial status.
Monday’s protest, lasting more than three hours, ended in dancing and chanting at Grand Central Station after protesters marched in the pouring rain waving flags, chanting, and in one case, thrusting wooden machetes in the air. Their cries of “Ricky renuncia y llevate la junta” (“Ricky resign and take the board with you,” “the board” referring to the Financial Oversight and Management Board) and “Yo soy Boricua pa’que tu lo sepas” (“I’m a Boricua so that you know”) could not be silenced. The procession of protesters won supportive cheers from onlookers as they battled the rain.
Governor Roselló said that his successor would be Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez, whom Puerto Ricans are calling on to resign, as well, due to corruption allegations. Vázquez is next in line because of the secretary of state’s resignation last week. Protests on the island continue.
“I hope that the people of Puerto Rico truly get their voice and get the opportunity to choose whoever they want to represent them,” Malu said. “This is an opportunity for Puerto Rico to imagine their future.”