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Puerto Rico governor, under fire, says he won't run again

Bianca Padró Ocasio, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Embattled Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rossello said Sunday he will finish out his current term, but is withdrawing his name from the ballot for the island's 2020 election.

He also said he welcomes the "process started by the Puerto Rico legislative assembly," as calls for his resignation continue to rage on the island.

"The priority must be the people of Puerto Rico," Rossello said in a message streamed live on his Facebook page. "The executive branch will continue working to guarantee that all of the government's operations continue providing services to our people."

Rossello is also stepping down as president of his party, the pro-statehood New Progressive Party.

"To every Puerto Rican out there, I have heard you, and I continue to hear you," Rossello said.

The announcement comes after reports that the governor spent the day meeting with members of his cabinet at the Fortaleza mansion in Old San Juan and with mayors on the island.

"Despite everything, I recognize that apologizing is not enough, and only my work will help restore confidence of these groups and lead the road to reconciliation," Rossello said. "Today I have the great responsibility of focusing my administration's energies to continue finding alternatives and tools ... to achieve excellence."

The recent unrest was triggered by a leaked group chat that showed the governor with 11 other close aides and allies making sexist, homophobic and other insulting comments toward political opponents, journalists and celebrities. The private messages were leaked days after the indictment of six former government officials and contractors on July 10 on a slew of corruption charges, increasing the frustrations of Puerto Ricans stemming from an economic recession and a devastating hurricane in 2017.

A mass protest is scheduled for Monday, that is expected to shut down a main highway and close down several malls along the march's route, local media reported.

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Outside the Fortaleza mansion, where protesters have gathered over the last ten days for daily demonstrations, a chaotic scene roared on over new outrage at the governor's statement late on Sunday.

Michael Vazquez , 30, said he had attended the last four days of protests. "What we want is his resignation, and that's clear, and that's what we will continue to fight for."

"It's a show of total disrespect and complete disregard to what's happening out here," Vazquez said.

Marta Ortiz, 70, of the town of Carolina, said she felt the governor would eventually have no choice but to resign.

"We're outraged with the statement the governor just gave out, because his people are fed up and tired. We need peace, we need our people to keep moving forward, and as long as he remains there, this will continue," Ortiz said "He's already done so much harm. Stop this and leave, that's what people want."

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