Governor Ricardo Rosselló is set to resign today, two days after his Chief of Staff resigned. Both are taking leave amid a series of scandals and weeks of protest that has forced major Puerto Rican
politicians out of government. After continued protests in the streets and on social media, Wanda Vázquez, Rosselló and Marín’s de facto successor, made it clear this weekend that she does not want the governorship, pushing the country further into a constitutional crisis.
Both the Governor and Secretary of State, who is constitutionally the second in line, became entangled in a wide-reaching group chat scandal and were pushed out after weeks of massive protests on the island and among the diaspora. Puerto Rico has never had a governor resign before.
Vázquez is advocating for Rosselló and the legislature to both appoint and confirm another Secretary of State in his final days in office. Protestors opposed her ascension to the Governor’s mansion before her announcement on Twitter
and continue to work against her. Yesterday, Rosselló appointed a new secretary of state, Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia. Some in the legislature signaled their opposition to his candidacy.
In the weeks leading up to the numerous high-profile resignations in Rosselló's administration, two scandals reached a fever pitch. The Centro de Periodismo Investigativo
released 889 pages of Telegram messages to the public. The group chat included Gov. Rosselló and close advisers and staff, who joked about, among other things, their political rivals and the corpses of those who had died during Hurricane Maria in 2017. The island is still recovering from the devasting storm and the paltry federal government response to it.
Two days after the messages were published, officials arrested Rosselló’s Education Secretary, Julia Keleher, and Chief of Health Administration, Ángela Ávila-Marrero. Keleher and Marrero are facing federal fraud charges, for allegedly diverting federal funds to unqualified but politically connected contractors, after closing hundreds of schools to implement Governor Rosselló’s austerity measures. Both resigned at the beginning of April.
After refusing to resign for days, only making small political concessions, Rosselló announced his resignation on July 25th at midnight, a significant day in Puerto Rican history. Among other things, it is Puerto Rico’s Constitution Day, the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898, and the anniversary of the Cerro Maravilla, a day in 1978 when two independence activists were killed at the request of government agents.
These two scandals, Hurricane Maria, a 13-year-long recession, and a major public debt crisis all drove thousands to the streets to demand political change. While political change has come, who will lead is still an undecided matter.