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Puerto Rico Legislature Begins Impeachment Process Against Governor

Puerto Rico Legislature Begins Impeachment Process Against Governor

Wednesday, 24 July 2019 06:15 PM

Puerto Rico's legislature began an impeachment process against Governor Ricardo Rosselló after an investigation into leaked chat messages found crimes may have been committed during the conversations, a senior legislator said on Wednesday.

Rosselló, a first-term governor for the U.S. territory, has resisted calls to step down over a scandal local media have dubbed "Rickyleaks." Media, including El Nuevo Día newspaper, cited unnamed sources as saying his resignation was imminent.

"The impeachment process has started," said Johnny Mendez, speaker of Puerto Rico's House of Representatives and a member of Rossello's party who was targeted in the chats.

An independent panel of lawyers commissioned by Mendez to investigate the offensive messages found four felonies and one misdemeanor may have been committed during the Telegram message group chats, one of the lawyers, Luis Rodríguez-Rivera, said in an email.

The 40-year-old governor, who is serving in his first elected office, is weighing his political future after almost two weeks of protests demanding his resignation, his spokesman Anthony Maceira said in a text message.

"Whichever decision he makes will, as always, be communicated officially," Maceira said.

Journalists were awaiting a news conference at the governor's mansion on Wednesday where Rosselló was expected to announce his resignation, or say he would face impeachment.

Banging pots and pans, blowing horns and waving Puerto Rican flags, thousands of protesters danced outside.

"The people, united, will never be defeated," they chanted.

Rows of riot police marched past La Fortaleza, the governor's official residence, in preparation for what some thought could become a night of confrontation if Rosselló did not step down. ​ Protesters were cautiously optimistic he would resign but said the fight wasn’t over.

“I am still fighting no matter what because whoever replaces him is just as bad as him,” said Jennifer Peña, 42.

Ariel Hernandez, 54, said he was confident Rosselló would leave office. "If he doesn’t resign tonight, we are still confident. We’ve never felt so confident in our history,” said Hernandez.

The island of 3.2 million people has been rocked by multiple crises in recent years, including a bankruptcy filing and a devastating hurricane in 2017 that killed about 3,000 people.

If Rosselló steps down, his replacement as the U.S. territory's leader would likely be Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez, whom many protesters reject because of her ties to the governor.

A string of Rosselló's closest aides have stepped down as prosecutors investigated the scandal. The governor's chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi resigned on Tuesday, citing concerns for the safety of his family.

The scandal erupted at about the same time as federal investigators charged two former high-ranking Puerto Rico government officials with conspiracy.

The protests in the capital San Juan were spurred by the publication on July 13 of chat messages on the messaging app Telegram, in which Rosselló and aides used profane language to describe female politicians and gay Puerto Rican celebrities, including Ricky Martin.

© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.


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Puerto Rico's legislature began an impeachment process against Governor Ricardo Rosselló after an investigation into leaked chat messages found crimes may have been committed during the conversations, a senior legislator said on Wednesday. Rosselló, a first-term governor...
puerto rico, governor, impeachment, proceedings
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2019-15-24
Wednesday, 24 July 2019 06:15 PM
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