Puerto Rico Govenor Ricardo Rosselló resigns after 12 days of protests

/ CBS News

Puerto Rico governor faces calls for resignation

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló resigned Wednesday night after his government and the country spent the day under a cloud of uncertainty. He said his resignation would take effect on Friday, August 2 and Secretary of Justice Wanda Vasquez will succeed him.

Rosselló addressed the island Wednesday night via a Facebook Live statement.

Thousands protested outside the governor's mansion in San Juan Wednesday night, the 12th night of demonstrations. Protesters celebrated after Rosselló's announcement.

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Local media reported Tuesday Rosselló would resign on Wednesday, and reporters were called to the press room in the governor's mansion at one point, CBS News' David Begnaud reports. The reporters were then sent outside, and one official said Rosselló was preparing a speech, but did not say what it would cover.

Meanwhile, dozens of police and corrections officers, some decked out in riot gear, were on the scene. Puerto Rico's largest news outlet reported Wednesday that Rosselló made a deal to resign but has since gone back on the deal.

BREAKING: “He’s gone.”
The Governor of Puerto Rico has left the Governors mansion, according to an inside source. That’s not to say he’s gone for good, or is resigning.
We are still waiting for a message from him to be aired around the island, tonight. pic.twitter.com/ireK3XYpzP

— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 25, 2019

Just after 9pm in Puerto Rico.
Here’s a scene setter. pic.twitter.com/RN7S8CIkOw

— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 25, 2019

The speaker of the legislature is meeting with the caucus to start the process of impeachment if Rosselló does not resign, Begnaud reported.

Earlier this week, Rosselló relinquished his role as president of one of the two main political parties in Puerto Rico and vowed not to seek reelection in 2020.

But that was not enough for many Puerto Ricans. On Monday, hundreds of thousands paralyzed the capital, marching to call for the governor's immediate resignation.

The crowds employed creative forms of dissent, including demonstrations on horseback and jet skis. And they were often joined by high-profile Puerto Rican celebrities like Ricky Martin and reggaeton artist Bad Bunny. Their calls for Rosselló's resignation received the backing of many members of Congress, the island's non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives and several of the two-dozen Democrats running for president.

Over the course of a few days, Rosselló became increasingly isolated, even struggling during an appearance on Monday on Fox News to name a political leader who backed his bid to remain in power. Last week, when pressed by CBS News, he failed to detail the support he had on the island.

The turmoil was fueled by the recent federal corruption sweeps and leaks of private messages in which Rosselló and high-ranking lieutenants called a political opponent a "whore," made fun of an obese man and joked about feeding a cadaver from the island's backlog-ridden morgue to a critic. But many Puerto Ricans are also frustrated by systemic problems on the island, which is still reeling from devastating storms and years of economic weakness.

During some of the protests, people chanted "Ricky resign and bring the board with you!" referring to the fiscal oversight board established by Congress to manage the island's ballooning debt. Since its inception, Puerto Ricans have denounced the austerity measures imposed by the board — which they note is comprised of unelected officials appointed by the White House.

Protestors have also called for long-term reform to ensure accountability and transparency in Puerto Rico, where governments have faced allegations of corruption and mismanagement for decades.

The island — which the U.S. acquired from Spain during the Spanish-American War in the late 19th century — still has not fully recovered from the devastation caused by hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017. According to figures accepted by the Puerto Rican government, about 3,000 people were killed as a result of María and the island incurred about $90 billion in damage.

About 30,000 damaged houses on the island still have blue tarps for roofs. The electrical grid, which was destroyed by María, is now operational but remains fragile. The morgue in San Juan — the only one on the island — continues to face a backlog of bodies.

David Begnaud, Camilo Montoya-Galvez and Caroline Linton contributed reporting.

First published on July 25, 2019 / 12:00 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rico Govenor Ricardo Rosselló resigns

Ricardo Rosselló said his resignation would take effect on Friday, August 2

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