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Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló Resigns After Chat Scandal

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned late Wednesday amid mass protests over the ongoing fallout from the publication of embarrassing chat messages and charges of corruption within his administration.

Rosselló said in a video message that he would resign effective Aug. 2 at 5 p.m. local time. He said he will be replaced by Puerto Rico’s secretary of justice, Wanda Vazquez.

Rosselló spent much of his 10-minute address reading off a list of his accomplishments while in office, saying he was successful at fighting corruption and working to lower taxes.

“The results are what most matter, and they are favorable results in the worst scenario imaginable,” the governor said, according to a translation from The New York Times. He later noted that demands for his removal had been “overwhelming, and I’ve received them with the highest degree of humility.”

The announcement of his resignation drew immediate celebration in San Juan as protesters burst into cheers and lighted fireworks over the capital.

“Honored to be part of a country where people are fearless and take to the streets in a true act of hope and dignity,” Carmin Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, wrote on Twitter. “This has just begun. VIVA PUERTO RICO.”

Earlier this week, hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of San Juan, the U.S. territory’s capital, shutting down major thoroughfares in one of the largest protests ever seen on the island.

The demonstrations were largely centered on the publication of nearly 900 pages of messages from a private group chat among Rosselló and his close aides, a scandal dubbed “Chatgate.” Many of the messages were highly offensive. The men insulted women, people with disabilities and victims of 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria.

But the outrage also fed into widespread frustration with Rosselló’s leadership. Puerto Ricans have long voiced discontent with the languishing recovery efforts after Maria and a long-lasting economic crisis that has harshly affected everyday citizens. At the same time, several members of Rosselló’s administration have been arrested in recent weeks by federal officials as part of a sprawling corruption investigation.

Law enforcement officials also seized several cellphones this week from some of the governor’s aides, although it’s unclear what charges could stem from the chat messages.

Vazquez, Rosselló’s replacement, already faces heavy criticism. She has been the island’s secretary of justice since January 2017 but has been the subject of ethics complaints and has drawn some fierce political opposition. She has also faced calls to resign.

If she assumes the governorship as planned, she would be the territory’s second-ever female leader.

Rosselló, 40, had attempted to resist calls that he resign, saying Sunday that he planned to step down as the head of his party and not seek reelection next year.

“I’ve made mistakes, and I apologize,” Rosselló said during remarks last week. “To every Puerto Rican man and woman, I have heard you and I hear you today.”

President Donald Trump had attacked Rosselló amid the protests and the chat scandal, saying he was a “terrible governor” and calling himself the “best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico.”

The White House has continually lambasted the cost associated with recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria, and Trump has complained that billions of dolllars in emergency funding has gone into the hands of “incompetent” and “very corrupt people.”

The president has falsely claimed that the island had gotten about $92 billion in aid, but Congress has authorized only $42.5 billion in recovery money. Much of that hasn’t yet been sent to the island.

Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $90 billion in damage, making it the third-costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, according to the federal government.

This article has been updated with statements from Rosselló.

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