¿Ricky renuncia? Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló was rumored to be stepping down by noon today after days of massive protests against his administration, thanks to leaked chat and text messages that shocked voters on the island. CBS’ David Begnaud, himself a topic in those messages, reported that no one has yet confirmed Rosselló’s resignation, but so far no one’s denying it either:
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló is reportedly set to resign as early as today. Two of the island's largest newspapers are reporting that Rossello will announce his resignation today. @CBSNews has not independently confirmed this reporting. @DavidBegnaud is in PR. pic.twitter.com/XwcNwPHZjU
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) July 24, 2019
The Miami Herald hears the same rumors, but not much more:
Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló will resign by Wednesday following nearly two weeks of relentless protests calling for him to step down, according to reports by two major local media outlets.
Rumors of his resignation have circled in Puerto Rico since Sunday, after Rosselló spent the day meeting with cabinet members and mayors of his party. He announced that evening he was resigning to the presidency of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and would not run for re-election.
If it happens, it will take place soon. One of the newspapers reported that Rosselló would go on television before noon ET today to announce the end of his governorship. As of 12:38 ET, though, Rosselló was still “reflecting“:
In response to local media reports that Rosselló was on the verge of leaving Puerto Rico, Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira says Wednesday that: “Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares has not resigned and remains in Puerto Rico. As he said yesterday, he’s in a process of reflecting, and listening to the people.”
Maceira said that some media had published “incorrect rumors” and that “whatever decision is taken will be officially communicated, as always.”
And as of 6:30 pm ET, his associates are claiming that he’s “considering” resignation. At this point on a yes-or-no question, the lack of a no almost by definition means yes. If Rosselló decides to stick around, the legislature is now promising an impeachment push. There is no small amount of irony that Trump might watch Rosselló get removed from office rather than the other way around.
If he does leave office, it’s not entirely clear who replaces him. Right now it looks like the office would go to Wanda Vázquez Garced, currently Secretary of Justice. Vázquez runs one of the few parts of the Puerto Rican government not under FBI investigation for corruption at the moment, which is of course another reason Puerto Ricans want to run Rosselló off the island.
The text messages, however, were apparently the last straw. The lesson here is that elected officials need minders for their social media use. Among the messages were a (perhaps-)joking death threat and insults about public figures, including for some strange reason the wildly popular entertainer Ricky Martin. Rosselló’s dark humor about Hurricane Maria probably was the worst sin of all:
Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism surfaced 900 pages of internal messages on July 13, unearthing derogatory, sexist and homophobic comments sent between the governor and his aides, as well as jokes about bodies accumulating after the hurricane.
“It’s like if you had 900 pages of Trump discussing Russia and discussing how to deal with the investigations — plus all the other barbarities that Trump would say about women, about minorities, about everybody,” said Juan Angel Giusti Cordero, a history professor at the University of Puerto Rico.
There’s a kind of irony in comparing Rosselló to the man who is his own bete noire, but it’s not a bad comparison from the Los Angeles Times either. Trump would still gut it out, but Rosselló has too much coming down for him to think he can brazen out a couple of years in this environment. Puerto Ricans have gone through hell over the last couple of years, and they’re frustrated and tired of unresponsive government.
In a sign of things to come, Rosselló’s top aide has already bolted for the door:
The chief of staff to Puerto Rico’s embattled governor has resigned amid mounting pressure on the office and calls for the governor himself to resign. …
The resignation of Ricardo Llerandi, Rossello’s chief of staff, was announced Tuesday and will go into effect on July 31. Llerandi was one of the two government aides who survived the firings after the release of nearly 900 pages of Telegram group chats that prompted outcry.
How fast is the ground shifting under Rosselló’s feet? This fast:
President Donald Trump, most of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates and scores of politicians from Puerto Rico itself have called on Rossello to resign. Even the mayor of San Sebastian, Javier Jimenez Perez, the one person Rossello was able to cite as a supporter during an interview with Fox News on Monday, told ABC News he does not support the governor.
Rosselló will have to act soon if he’s going to act at all. At some point, the size and passion of these demonstrations will create friction points with law enforcement. If the situation doesn’t change, the stories out of Puerto Rico could get a lot worse.
Update: I had forgotten to update the first paragraph when we shifted the post to later in the day. It’s fixed now.