North America

Governor of Puerto Rico to resign after mass protests

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Puerto Rico's governor will resign on August 2 after nearly two weeks of furious protests touched off by a leak of crude and insulting chat messages.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello says he will resign after almost two weeks of protests calling for him to step down over a scandal involving offensive chat messages and government corruption that rocked the bankrupt island.

Rossello said in a televised speech on Wednesday night he would stay in his position until August 2 when Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez would take over as governor.

An aerial view shows thousands of people as they fill the Expreso Las Americas highway.
An aerial view shows thousands of people as they fill the Expreso Las Americas highway.
Getty Images

A crowd of demonstrators outside the governor's mansion in Old San Juan erupted into cheers and singing after his announcement just before midnight.

Addressing the protests, Rossello said: "The demands have been overwhelming and I've received them with highest degree of humility."

Demonstrators protest against Ricardo Rossello.
Demonstrators protest against Ricardo Rossello.
Getty

The obscenity-laced online messages involving the governor and 11 other men infuriated Puerto Ricans already frustrated with corruption, mismanagement, economic crisis and the sluggish recovery from Hurricane Maria nearly two years ago.

In response, tens of thousands took to the streets to demand Rossello's resignation in Puerto Rico's biggest demonstrations since the protests that put an end to US Navy training on the island of Vieques more than 15 years ago.

The first-term governor announced his resignation three days after he failed on Sunday to soothe critics' concerns by vowing not to seek re-election next year and giving up the leadership of his political party.

His term as governor has seen the island hit with back-to-back 2017 hurricanes that killed about 3000 people and wreaked widespread destruction just months after the US territory filed for bankruptcy.

At-times violent protests have rocked San Juan and its historic colonial capital district since the July 13 release of leaked text messages between Rossello and his closest allies, with an estimated 500,000 people attending the largest demonstration on Monday.

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