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UPDATE 7/24 12:39 p.m.: The governor issued a statement midday on Wednesday announcing that he hasn’t yet resigned and is “in a process of reflection and of listening to the people.”
“Whatever decision he makes, it will be communicated officially, as usual,” the statement added. “There are incorrect rumors that are being disseminated, even by some media outlets.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is expected to resign Wednesday, local newspaper El Nuevo Día reported.
His resignation would come after almost two weeks of protests demanding he step down, some of which turned violent. An estimated 500,000 people shut down one of the island's biggest highways on Monday, and the demonstrations continued through Wednesday morning, as protesters waved flags and sang songs outside the governor’s mansion.
Several sources told El Nuevo Día that Rosselló would resign before noon on Wednesday. An unnamed source also told CNN that Rosselló’s resignation was expected the same day.
Protesters have been in the streets since the July 13 publication of a trove of homophobic and sexist messages, known as #TelegramGate or “Ricky Leaks,” between Rosselló and 11 confidants. The protests also take aim at the island’s entire political establishment, which has imposed cuts to public spending that have taken their toll on day-to-day life on the island, and, in the view of many Puerto Ricans, botched the Hurricane Maria recovery effort.
Next in the line of succession is Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez, who’s also a member of Rosselló’s New Progressive Party. She would have overseen any investigation into the messaging scandal but recused herself because she was mentioned in the messages.
Within hours of the news of Rosselló’s impending resignation, #WandaRenuncia was trending on Twitter in Puerto Rico. Many on the island said that Vázquez was too close to Rosselló and part of the same corrupt political establishment that they want to dissolve.
The protesters have used the rallying cry “Ricky renuncia y llévate a la Junta” which translates to, “Ricky resign, and take the ‘junta’ with you.” The “junta” refers to the unelected fiscal control board that’s imposed austerity measures on the island in order to pay off Puerto Rican debt.
Rosselló’s resignation, should it happen as expected, would come on the heels of the resignation of his chief of staff on Tuesday and several other high-level officials in the wake of the messaging scandal. Among other crass exchanges, one of Rosselló’s buddies made a joke about feeding dead bodies to the crows as the island’s morgues were overflowing in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
And the texting scandal came just days after the former secretary of education, Julia Keleher, and the executive director of Puerto Rico’s health insurance administration, Angela Avila Marrero, were arrested as part of a federal corruption investigation.
Rosselló had tried to do damage control as the protests escalated. In an appearance on Fox News on Monday, as the protests shut down a highway, Rosselló said that he had heard the protesters and that he wouldn’t seek reelection but doubled down that he would serve out the rest of his term.
Cover image: A demonstrator bangs on a pot that has a cartoon drawing of Governor Ricardo Rossello and text the reads in Spanish "Quit Ricky" as people gather to protest against Gov. Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Friday, July 19, 2019. (AP Photo/ Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo)