Puerto Rico governor says will not seek reelection amid crisis

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Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello announced Sunday that he will not seek reelection next year after more than a week of protests demanding his resignation following the release of compromising messages.

“I have listened, and I am listening to you today,” Rossello said in a video posted on Facebook. “I have made mistakes and I have apologized.”

“I admit that apologizing is not enough. In this case, I announce that I will not seek reelection as governor next year,” he said, adding that he will also leave the presidency of the New Progressive Party.

Protests erupted last week after the leak of hundreds of pages of text chats on the encrypted messaging app Telegram in which Rossello and 11 other male administration members criticize officials, politicians and journalists.

In one exchange, chief financial officer Christian Sobrino makes homophobic references to Latin superstar Ricky Martin.

In another, a mocking comment is made about bodies piled up in the morgue after Hurricane Maria, which left nearly 3,000 dead.

The politician, who advocates statehood for the US territory of Puerto Rico, had said in March that he would seek reelection in polls scheduled for November 2020.

Rossello also said that he would face impeachment proceedings being studied by the legislature “with all the truth, force and in a responsible manner.”

Former governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla told Telemundo that Rossello “is buying time to see if the protests die down.”

On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in front of the governor’s residence, chanting slogans such as “They will not stop us” and holding signs that said “Ricky resign.”

“You have to go... to make change, you have to resign and have another, more capable person take your place,” protester Jose Maldonado told AFP.

Rossello is also under pressure after US federal agents arrested contractors and government officials -- including former education secretary Julia Keleher -- on corruption charges.

Police fired tear gas at the crowd on Monday after a fire broke out near the government headquarters. Five protesters were arrested.

Local celebrity performers such as rapper Benito Martinez (“Bad Bunny”), pop icon Martin and Rene Perez (“Residente”) urged their fellow Puerto Ricans to turn out on Wednesday for a demonstration that drew thousands of people.