Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello Sunday that he will not run for re-election in 2020, his announcement coming amid an ocean-borne protest calling for his resignation due to the brewing scandal over controversial online chats he engaged in with members of his cabinet.
The demonstrators, who arrived off the coast in front of the La Fortaleza presidential residence in downtown San Juan, came in kayaks, on jetskis and inflatable life rafts on the ninth day of protests on the island after a week ago on Saturday the Center for Investigative Journalism released 889 pages of text of Rossello's online chats in which he and other top officials insult and make fun of assorted politicians, performers, women and journalists.
Although the Sunday oceangoing protest had a festive air, police had established a perimeter around La Fortaleza using buoys to keep the demonstrators at a distance. Some did try to cross the cordon line, upon which authorities issued warnings to them to stay back.
Inside La Fortaleza, Rossello held a meeting with his cabinet. Later, in a statement he issued via his Facebook account, Rossello said he would not seek re-election next year and also resigned as head of the governing New Progressive Party (PNP).
Rossello said that Puerto Rico will have the opportunity to elect new leadership next year and, in the months remaining in his current term, he will continue to do the work the Puerto Rican people entrusted to him and will hand over to his successor a government showing positive economic indicators and focused on emerging from the island's deep economic and social crisis.
Meanwhile, the demonstrators on the water carried signs calling for Rossello to resign, while others on the shore vigorously applauded their efforts.
Last Friday, at the capital's port, dozens of aquatic vehicles and boats of various sorts approached Old San Juan to accompany another anti-Rossello demonstration called by the unions.
Excerpts of the Telegram instant messaging service chats, released on July 8 - along with the full text of the chats - show that the group Rossello was participating in disparaged San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, New York City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito (whom Rossello called a "whore" in the chats), as well as the late Puerto Rican independence movement leader Carlos Gallisa, the federal control board managing the US commonwealth's finances and even pop star Ricky Martin, who is gay.
Other Puerto Rican officials participating in the chats included the island's former secretary of state, Luis Rivera, and the former executive director of the Aafaf financial advisory agency, Christian Sobrino, both of whom have resigned as a result.
Rossello last week praised both of those men, saying that Rivera was a "great person" and Sobrino had performed "titanic" work for Puerto Rico.
The serious political crisis comes at virtually the worst possible moment for the island, which is mired in bankruptcy amid a deep economic crisis while it also tries to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria two years ago.