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Governor Of Puerto Rico Yields To Public Outcry And Resigns


Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello has finally yielded to massive public protests. In a recorded announcement posted online late last night, Rossello said he will resign. At the time, thousands of demonstrators were in the streets outside of his executive residence for the 13th straight day of protests.

Here is Adrian Florido of NPR's Code Switch team. He's been covering this from San Juan.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Rossello addressed Puerto Ricans from behind his desk in the governor's mansion known as La Fortaleza. After several minutes listing accomplishments, a freshly shaven and somber-faced Rossello arrived at the line that many thousands of people in the streets had been demanding to hear from him for days.


RICARDO ROSSELLO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "Despite the mandate I have from the people who democratically elected me," Rossello said, "I feel remaining in this position would hinder the continued success of what's been achieved."


ROSSELLO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "Today," he said, "I announce that I'll be resigning the governorship, effective August 2 at 5 p.m."

Outside, thousands of people packing the streets of Old San Juan were streaming the address on their cellphones. When they heard that line, they erupted.


REYNALDO CORTES: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "It feels amazing," said Reynaldo Cortes (ph). "The time had come for him to resign."

Over the last two weeks, Rossello had seen his political capital evaporate. It started with corruption charges against two former officials in his administration, then the publication of private text messages in which the governor and his top advisers insulted opponents and everyday Puerto Ricans, schemed ways to manipulate the public and joked about dead bodies from Hurricane Maria. Protests against him started small but within days had swelled to thousands and then tens - possibly hundreds - of thousands.

JORGE RIVERA: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "The people have woken up," said Jorge Rivera (ph). "Thank God"

RIVERA: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: He said he was glad the private texts had come out because Puerto Ricans had seen what kind of people their leaders really were. Over days, initial offense over the chants transformed into a broad repudiation of not only the governor, but of a political system that Puerto Ricans feel is rife with corruption and responsible for the island's ongoing economic crisis and much of the suffering they endured after Hurricane Maria.

BRENI RODRIGUEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Breni Rodriguez (ph) said what happened to the governor should be a warning that Puerto Ricans are finally standing up to hold their leaders accountable and that whoever comes next should know that protesters won't let up. Under Puerto Rico's constitution, the next in line to become governor is the island's justice secretary, Wanda Vazquez, because the secretary of state, who would've assumed role, resigned last week amid the scandal.

Adrian Florido, NPR News, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.
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