Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced Sunday he will not seek reelection in 2020 and will step down as the leader of his party after days of extraordinary protests in the US territory calling for his ouster over leaked, offensive text messages, mishandling of a hurricane aftermath, and corruption among public officials.
“I’ve made mistakes, and I apologize,” Rosselló said on Facebook live. ““To every Puerto Rican man and woman, I have heard you and I hear you today.”
Rosselló, though, notably did not resign — a main demand of the masses of protesters who have taken to the streets nightly. It’s unclear how they will take his not immediately stepping down.
Rosselló, a member of the New Progressive party and son of a former governor of Puerto Rico, shot into the spotlight after he cozied up to President Donald Trump after Hurricane Maria in September 2017, while thousands of people died and went without food, water, electricity, and housing. The island, whose residents are US citizens, still has not fully recovered.
On July 13, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published 889 pages of conversations between Rosselló and his top aides and cabinet members that included misogynist and anti-gay messages and jokes about the large number of deaths caused by Hurricane Maria.
In one text, Rosselló called former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — who was born in Puerto Rico — a “puta,” which translates to “bitch” or “whore.”
Another target of the texts was San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who announced in May that she is running against Rosselló in the 2020 elections. Rosselló said she was “off her meds” and referred to her as an “HP,” short for “hija de puta,” the Spanish equivalent of “son of a bitch.”
The texts were sent between 2018 and January 2019.
Soon after, thousands of protesters began filling the streets of Puerto Rico night after night, marching to the capitol building and governor’s mansion. Some large protests erupted, with police teargassing and firing rubber bullets at demonstrators.
Singer Ricky Martin — who was the target of anti-gay comments in the leaked messages — marched against Rosselló, and Reggaeton star Bad Bunny left his European tour to join protests. He then cancelled plans to record his new album to continue protesting.
Since the messages were published, two cabinet ministers have resigned. Rosselló said multiple times that he would not go, declaring on Thursday his commitment to Puerto Rico was “stronger than ever” and visiting a church on Sunday to “seek forgiveness” from Puerto Ricans.
Several members of Rosselló’s own party in Puerto Rico called for him to step down and some Democrats running for president began calling for his ouster.
“I don’t think that Rosselló can be effective anymore,” Democratic presidential candidate and former housing secretary Julián Castro told BuzzFeed News on Friday. “The way they’ve treated the people of Puerto Rico, the administration has treated the people of Puerto Rico, I believe that he should resign.”
Democrats in Congress have also begun to call for his departure — on July 10, Rep. Raul Grijalva was the first to say Rosselló should step down. On Thursday, Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York City, who has been outspoken on issues relating to Puerto Rico, also called for his resignation.
“Coming to this conclusion gives me no joy because, as a federal official, I have been reluctant to interfere with Puerto Rico’s internal affairs,” Velazquez wrote in a statement. “However, given recent developments, I see it as the only path forward to bring a close to this sad chapter in our beloved Island’s history.”