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Puerto Rico governor says he will not seek reelection but does not resign

Marisa Gerber and Milton Carrero Galarza, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico's embattled governor -- who had gone almost entirely silent in the days since thousands of protesters began demanding his resignation -- dug in his heels Sunday, refusing to step down.

But in a four-minute speech, streamed live on Facebook, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said that he would not seek reelection in 2020 and that he would step down as president of his New Progressive Party.

Insisting that he loved the island and had considered the calls for him to resign, he said, "Puerto Rican brothers and sisters ... I have heard you and I hear you today. ... I've made mistakes and I apologize."

Rossello has faced fierce criticism after messages between him and several of his top aides leaked, in which the men used homophobic and sexist language and joked about victims of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in September 2017.

Another major demonstration is expected Monday after ones held in the last week that drew thousands of people into the streets of San Juan. Some universities have canceled classes for the day and many people here said they planned to skip work to join the protest. They already felt compelled to action, some said, but the governor's refusal to step down has further fueled their dedication.

"It makes us angrier," said Puerto Rican singer Ileana Cabra, who has joined along with protesters nearly every day for more than a week. Cabra, who goes by the stage name iLe, said she was confident that Puerto Ricans will continue marching in the streets until the governor resigns.

 

"We will keep pushing, we won't stop," said Cabra, who, along with several other artists, released a protest song last week called "Sharpening the Knives."

Many people here say they're disgusted not only by the leaked messages -- concrete proof, they say, of their leaders' callousness -- but also with rampant government corruption. On July 10, FBI agents arrested two of the island's former top officials, who allegedly directed lucrative contracts worth millions to politically connected businesses.

Many politicians, including the U.S. commonwealth's nonvoting member of Congress, also have called for Rossello to step down.

In his remarks Sunday, Rossello -- who is viewed by some as an extension of his father, a former governor -- acknowledged that he had invited criticism but said he planned for now to continue on the job.

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