PUERTO RICO PROTEST: Governor Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico’s has announced his resignation after nearly two weeks of mass protests fueled by a leak of crude and abusive messages between him and his top advisers.
Thousands of protesters outside the governor’s mansion in San Juan erupted into cheers and singing after the governor’s announcement on Wednesday.
Ricardo Rossello said in a video posted on Facebook, “I announce that I will be resigning from the governor’s post effective on Friday, August 2 at 5 pm, The protesters’ demands have been overwhelming”, adding that: ” I’ve received them with highest degree of humility.”
The protests have been ongoing since July 13, when the Center for Investigative Journalism released 889 pages of text chats on the encrypted messaging app Telegram in which Rossello and 11 other male administration members mocked gay people, women and hurricane victims.
The obscenity-laced online messages infuriated Puerto Ricans already frustrated with corruption, mismanagement, economic crisis and the sluggish recovery from Hurricane Maria nearly two years ago.
Ricardo Rossello, a Democrat elected in 2016, is the first governor to resign in the modern history of Puerto Rico, a territory of the United States with more than three million American citizens who do not have full representation in the country’s Congress or the right to vote for president.
Ricardo Rossello said Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez will temporarily succeed him.
According to Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from San Juan’s colonial district, there was “absolute pandemonium” in the area as soon Rossello announced his resignation.
“One protester told me, this was their ‘Arab Spring’. It was started to remove the governor but in the last 10 days it has grown into much bigger issues such as education and health …They want complete change,” he said.
Protesters said they were “happy” and said Rossello’s decision marked a “new chapter in Puerto Rico’s history”.
Sara Echevarria said “I feel a sense of relief and empowerment because we finally made history in finally getting him to resign after so many days,” while talking to newsmen.
“This was a resistance movement I would say, finally all the power energy and frustration came out, we had everybody with us, and it’s here to stay, we are demanding big changes from our government, not just his resignation.
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“What happens next is yet to be seen, but it is not just to put another interim government, which is going to be Wanda Vazquez … we don’t want her either, it has to be someone clean, fresh, new and genuine and honest .. but I don’t know what the future hold for us,” she added.
In line with Puerto Rico’s constitution, the secretary of state would normally assume the governorship, but since Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marin became one of more than a dozen officials to resign in the uproar over the leak, leadership of the island would fall to Vazquez.
Elizondo said there were many challenges ahead for Puerto Rico despite the celebrations.
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“This is an island is governed by the old guard, but the youngsters are saying we had enough we are now going to take our future of our islands in our hand,” he said, adding that Puerto Ricans were also frustrated at being treated as “second-class citizens by Washington, DC”.
“By no means this political crisis is over … this is a celebration, but the fact remains there is still a lot of challenges on this island, how to rebuild two years after Hurricane Maria, how to get the funds they need, who will govern this island, and where will this movement go from here.”
This may not turn out well for the people but it is a good start for leaders to take responsibility for their words and actions.
It also shows the world that government is actually of the people and the people decides who leads and who should not.