Ricardo Rosselló is out as Puerto Rico’s governor. He submitted his resignation papers last night saying his final day in office will be August 2nd. Via USA Today:
He said his resignation would be effective Aug. 2, making him the first governor to resign in the modern history of the U.S. territory, which is mired in a 13-year recession and still recovering from a Category 4 hurricane two years ago.
Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez will become the new governor.
“The demands have been overwhelming and I’ve received them with highest degree of humility,” Rosselló said in his announcement just before midnight local time.
Rosselló was stuck between a rock and a hard place on this issue, so his resignation is far from surprising. Much of the focus is on the tone of the text messages but El Nuevo Día in Puerto Rico reported he could have faced criminal charges for corruption.
Rosselló’s exit comes after a turbulent three weeks, during which private texts between him and close aides made through the messaging app Telegram got leaked revealing sexist and homophobic insults aimed at politicians and journalists, as well as conspiracies to discredit opposition leaders. The explosive 889-page also contains several instances of possible criminal activity, according to legal experts.
The Telegram scandal closely followed the arrests of top members in Rosselló’s cabinet —among them former Education secretary Julia Keleher and former executive director of Puerto Rico’s Health Insurance Administration, Ángela Ávila Marrero— by the FBI on corruption charges involving three separate schemes in which $15 million in federal and state funds were diverted to private entities and individuals…
Moreover, a report commissioned by the speaker of the House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, to determine if there were legal grounds for an impeachment process on the governor, found on Wednesday that five criminal activities related to the Telegram chat had been committed.
The report by Méndez is probably based on work done by Center for Investigative Journalism – who originally published the Telegram messages – which intimated a week ago Rosselló was willing to look the other way when some of his pals started the scheme. CPI suggested the island was basically pillaged by Rosselló’s allies.
The modus operandi involved planting internal personnel and external contractors in key advisory and communications positions in the agencies to control information. Also, sharing privileged data on government contracts to benefit private clients in exchange for commissions and payments…
The main scheme includes these three figures — [Rosselló’s ex-campaign director, Elías] Sánchez, [publicist Edwin] Miranda, and [media and communications strategist, Carlos] Bermúdez — who, on paper, appeared as “private citizens” and “contractors,” but actually constitute the top of the the government, with more power than any of Gov. Rossello’s constitutional cabinet members, according to multiple sources. In turn, it connects, sometimes directly and in others tangentially with particular schemes, such as those uncovered with the arrests made by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in July in the Department of Education, the Health Insurance Administration and the accounting firm BDO.
Yeah, Rosselló was pretty much doomed after all this came out. Puerto Rico’s leadership now falls into the hands of Wanda Vázquez, who has her own problems with the legislature. The New York Times even suggested her role as governor isn’t going to last very long.
Puerto Rico’s Constitution calls for the secretary of state to become governor in the event of a resignation. That can’t happen at the moment because the secretary of state recently resigned over his participation in the chat exchange at the center of the scandal that has enveloped the governor. While Mr. Rosselló in his resignation address mentioned that Ms. Vázquez was poised to succeed him, the fact that he is not stepping down until Aug. 2 leaves some wiggle room.
Some have suggested that Ms. Vázquez, if she became governor, could immediately ask the legislative assembly to confirm a new person to the secretary of state’s position — and then hand the governorship over to him or her. Or some other possibility could emerge before Aug. 2.
It sounds like Rosselló’s resignation might just be the opening act in a political circus with more fun and games coming in the next week.