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Puerto Rico's governor says he will step down next week

Posted at 9:05 PM, Jul 24, 2019

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he will step down next Friday after more than a week of protests calling for his resignation.

Rosselló announced in a video on Facebook that he will resign August 2 at 5 p.m. ET. The governor acknowledged many constituents wanted him gone, and said the recent protests had humbled him.

The governor had been expected to announce his resignation earlier Wednesday as lawmakers were ready to begin impeachment proceedings.

Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez will likely take his place as governor.

The streets of San Juan erupted into one big party as people came out to celebrate the news of Rosselló's resignation, with fireworks, drumming, music and cheering. Residente, one of the island's most famous rappers, celebrated with the crowd.

Thousands of people have jammed the streets of San Juan for days, calling for Rosselló's resignation after Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism published a series of group messages between the governor and his inner circle that included homophobic and misogynistic language and jokes about Hurricane Maria victims.

Protesters say Rosselló's resignation is only a first step in what they call a historic challenge to a political power structure long dominated by two parties.

Many Puerto Ricans have lost confidence in the governor's New Progressive Party, which favors US statehood, and the Popular Democratic Party, which supports the current commonwealth status.

"Rosselló is a symptom of a much deeper problem," said Cynthia García Coll, a psychologist who teaches at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras.

For Rosselló's successor, it will not be business as usual on the island.

"Before, people would sit and watch TV and complain or do nothing," said García Coll, a member of a community organizing group made up mostly of artists and writers. "People are not sitting in front of their TVs anymore. That's the difference. I call it a peaceful revolution."

Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Jose Melendez, a member of the governor's New Progressive Party, said legislators were planning to begin the impeachment process if there were "illegal acts in the chats."

A team of legal experts was commissioned last week by Speaker of the House Carlos Johnny Méndez to review messages from the governor's group chat and determine whether any crimes were committed.

Edgardo Roman Espada, president of the Puerto Rico Bar Association, said the trio of experts reported that there was evidence of five possible crimes, including illegal misuse of public office for personal gain, embezzlement, negligence as pertaining to fulfilling the duties of public office and violations of the government ethics law.

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