Puerto Ricans didn’t wait long to express exactly how they felt when Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced his resignation just before midnight on Wednesday.
Thousands of protesters outside the governor's mansion in Old San Juan broke into song and cheers as Rosselló announced he was stepping down.
Within minutes, the streets were flooded with celebrating Puerto Ricans, with car horns blaring and fireworks exploding above their heads.
The celebration was an outpouring of relief after almost two weeks of mass protests over “Ricky Leaks,” the July 13 publication of a trove of homophobic and sexist messages between Rosselló and 11 confidants. The scandal is also known as “TelegramGate.”
Rosselló, who resisted calls for his resignation at first, announced he would step down on August 2.
“The demands have been overwhelming and I’ve received them with the highest degree of humility,” Rosselló said in a statement on Facebook Live that also included a long list of what he claimed were his administration’s accomplishments.
Rosselló said he would be replaced by justice secretary Wanda Vázquez, a former prosecutor who headed the U.S. territory’s office of women’s affairs, but he appeared to leave open the possibility of another person taking the office.
Vázquez is next in line to succeed Rosselló only because secretary of state Luis Rivera Marín resigned over the scandal last week. Vázquez, who some see as too close to Rosselló and his pro-statehood New Progressive Party, also appeared to suggest an alternative candidate could be in place by the time he steps down, saying she would be ready to take the reins only “if necessary.”
While protesters had been calling for Rosselló’s resignation for weeks, pressure mounted this week when top party members and donors abandoned him. It increased further on Wednesday when the leader of the Puerto Rico House, Carlos Méndez Núñez, said lawmakers were planning to convene impeachment proceedings on Thursday.
But it was the mass protests by hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans that forced Rosselló from office, including an estimated 500,000 people shutting down one of the island's biggest highways on Monday.
Protesters have signaled that Rosselló’s resignation is just the beginning, with many expressing their dissatisfaction with years of financial mismanagement and the bungled response to Hurricane Maria in 2017.
“I’m really, really, really, really happy, but I know we need to stay right here, screaming,” 21-year-old protester Julie Rivera told Reuters on Thursday morning, saying that she was already planning to return later in the day to protest against Vázquez’s appointment.
Cover: People celebrate on the highway after Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced that he is resigning Aug. 2 after weeks of protests over leaked obscene, misogynistic online chats, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, July 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)