Puerto Rico’s Governor Resigns

July 25, 2019
Constance Gibbs with TIME and AP reporting
MARCHING FOR CHANGE Puerto Ricans celebrate Governor Ricard Rosselló’s decision to resign.
DENNIS M. RIVERA PICHARDO—AP PHOTO

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, will resign from office on August 2. His announcement comes after two weeks of mass protests on the island. Residents have been demanding that Rosselló step down.

Rosselló announced the decision in a Facebook post late Wednesday night. “The demands have been overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve received them with highest degree of humility.”

Protests began on July 13. They were sparked by the release of private messages between the governor and people who work with him. Puerto Ricans felt the messages were offensive to women and gay people. In one exchange, a government official joked about victims of Hurricane Maria. Nearly 3,000 people may have died as a result of the hurricane, in 2017. Large parts of the island were without power for months.

To many Puerto Ricans, the messages represented decades of government corruption. Even before the protests started, several officials were accused of breaking laws. “It was so insulting,” Milagros Concepcion told TIME. She flew from New York to Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, to join the protests on Monday. “People are just so mad because [Rosselló] took advantage of our people.”

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. It’s under U.S. control but is not a state. Its citizens can vote in local elections, but they cannot vote for U.S. president. They’re not represented in the U.S. Congress in the same way as other citizens.

Rosselló will be the island’s first leader to resign. After his announcement, the people of Puerto Rico celebrated with cheering, singing, and fireworks. Justice secretary Wanda Vázquez will take his place.