Embattled governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo ‘RickyLeaks’ Rossello resigns after controversial chat messages

 

Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello has announced his resignation after more than two weeks of furious public protests triggered by the leaking of insulting private messages. 

With thousands of people gathered outside his mansion in Old San Juan and the threat of impeachment growing, Mr Rossello announced his departure on Facebook 

“Despite expecting to serve the term that the people democratically elected me to, today I feel that continuing in this position represents a threat to the success we have achieve,” Mr Rossello said. 

He becomes the first governor to resign in the modern history of Puerto Rico, which is a US territory in the Caribbean with more than three million American citizens.

The decision follows an outpouring of public anger after messages shared between Mr Rossello and 11 other men, many public officials, on the encrypted messaging app Telegram became public. 

 

The scandal became known as 'Rickyleaks' in reference to Ricardo Rosselló

 

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Among the 889 pages of leaked private messages were derogatory comments. Mr Rossello called one female politician a “whore” and another a “daughter of a bitch” in some messages. 

Others saw him make fun of an obese man with whom he posed in a photo. Participants in the group chat had also discussed the awarding of government contracts in a way that alarmed some. 

Mr Rossello also posted homophobic comments about the singer Ricky Martin, who is Puerto Rican. Martin joined in the protests himself and posted “we did it” after the resignation was announced. 

The revelation had taken tens of thousands of people onto the street in protest, reflecting not just anger at the comments but a frustration with the wider economic and social conditions in Puerto Rico. 

The island is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which in September 2017 killed thousands and caused more than $100 billion in damage. Some 30,000 homes still have tarp roofs almost two years on. 

There has also been a 13-year recession in Puerto Rico that has led to an exodus of nearly half a million people to the US mainland in the past decade.

Mr Rossello, a 40-year-old Democrat whose father was once governor, had attempted to remain in power by saying he would not seek re-election when his four-year term ended in 2020. 

However the mass protests continued despite the announcement and throughout this week political pressure and the possibility of court action has continued to build. 

A judge issued search warrants for the cellphones of government officials involved in the chat, one of which said the conversations may have illegally divulged confidential government information.

Lawmakers had threatened to start impeachment proceedings, a way of formally removing Mr Rosello from office, unless he resigned by 5pm on Wednesday. The announcement came just before midnight. 

 

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