Puerto Rico governor will not seek reelection amid political crisis

Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rossello addresses the audience during his swear-in ceremony outside the capitol in San Juan on January 2, 2017. (Reuters pic)

SAN JUAN: 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 chats.

“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 apologised.”

“I admit that apologising 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.

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

Protests erupted in Puerto Rico 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 had criticised 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.

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.