Demonstrators among the jubilant crowds celebrating the resignation of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in Old San Juan told Fox News Thursday they are “relieved” he will step down — but that there are still a “lot of corrupt people we want to get out of here.”
Rosselló announced late Wednesday night that he will relinquish his post next Friday, becoming the first governor to resign in the history of the U.S. island territory. The decision came following more than a week of protests against him, spurred by a leak of crude and insulting chat messages between Rosselló and his top advisers.
“We got the first guy out but there’s a lot of corrupt people we want to get out of here,” Rafael Munoz, who was among the thousands who gathered outside the governor’s mansion in Old San Juan to celebrate the resignation, told Fox News. “Most of all, I'm relieved.”
Rosselló’s announcement was met with the sounds of fireworks going off in Puerto Rico’s capital, as residents were seen crying, banging pots and pans and playing music.
“I can't even believe it. I can't even describe it. This is historic,” said Jamie Reyes, another demonstrator. “I feel like I'm going to have to pinch myself. And check the news to see if he was actually saying the truth.”
The leaked conversations reportedly showed the governor mocking women, homosexuals, political opponents and victims of Hurricane Maria.
In one message, Rosselló reportedly called one New York female politician of Puerto Rican descent a “w—e” and described another as a “daughter of a b—h.” One chat included vulgar references to Latin pop star Ricky Martin’s homosexuality.
People celebrate outside the governor’s mansion after Ricardo Rossello announced that he is resigning Aug. 2 after nearly two weeks of protests and political upheaval touched off by a leak of crude and insulting chat messages between him and his top advisers. (AP)
More than a dozen officials have already resigned since the chats were leaked, and prior to Rosselló announcing his own departure, lawmakers made threats of impeachment.
Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives is now considering going through the impeachment process anyway, as its president told the Radio Isla station Thursday that he has doubts that Rosselló will keep his word.
Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez is the person in line to assume Rosselló's post, taking over more than halfway through Rosselló's four-year term and becoming Puerto Rico's second female governor.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello meets with mayors from his party inside the Yolanda Guerrero Cultural Center in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, on Sunday. (AP/Miami Herald)
The upheaval comes as the island tries to restructure part of $70 billion in debt and cope with a 13-year recession that has led to an exodus of nearly half a million people to the U.S. mainland in the past decade. Many Puerto Ricans are resentful over the resulting pension cuts, school closings and other austerity measures.
The economic crisis is in part a result of previous administrations — including that of Rosselló's father, Pedro — that overspent, overestimated revenue and borrowed millions as the island sank deeper into debt. In 2017, Puerto Rico filed for the equivalent of bankruptcy. Congress approved a financial package, and a federal board is overseeing the island's finances.
Rosselló spent much of his time as governor fighting austerity measures and seeking federal funds after Maria devastated the island in September 2017, causing thousands of deaths and more than $100 billion in damage.
But nearly two years later, some 30,000 homes still have tarp roofs, power outages remain common, and Puerto Rico has received less than a third of the roughly $40 billion pledged by the U.S. government.
Fox News’ Bryan Llenas, Brie Stimson, Danielle Wallace and the Associated Press contributed to this report.