Top Puerto Rican officials forced to resign

Puerto Rico’s governor is facing calls to step down after he angrily came to the defense of Democratic party chairman Tom Perez.

Ricardo Rosselló has said he will not resign, but two of his top officials will step down after private chats were published in which he called ex-New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito a “whore,” the Associated Press reported. Rosselló was reportedly upset that Mark-Viverito had criticized Perez.

On Saturday, two top officials who were in the chats, Chief Financial Officer Christian Sobrino and Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marín, said they would resign.

Puerto Rico officials ousted

In the messages, Rosselló vented about Mark-Viverito and a federal board overseeing the island’s finances. Rosselló used the Spanish word for “whore” in reference to Mark-Viverito and told the board to “go f**k yourself” in English, with a series of middle-finger emojis.

Rosselló was reportedly upset that Mark-Viverito attacked Perez for supporting Puerto Rican statehood. Perez came out in support of statehood for Puerto Rico in 2017, The Hill reported.

Mark-Viverito is an ally of Trump critic and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who is looking to challenge Rosselló for the governor’s seat next year on the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) ticket, according to the New York Post. In Puerto Rican politics, supporters of the PDP oppose Puerto Rican statehood, while supporters of Rosselló’s New Progressive Party tend to support it. Both mayor and governor are Democrats at the national level.

Mark-Viverito called on Rosselló to step down in a tweet, saying: “A person who uses that language against a woman, whether a public figure or not, should not govern Puerto Rico… This type of behavior is completely unacceptable.”

While Rosselló has resisted calls to resign, he announced that he would be firing officials who participated in the chat. “Aware that the current environment cannot be maintained, I have communicated to all other public officials involved in the chat that I will have to dispense with their services/and or advice,” Rosselló said.

Corruption rocks Puerto Rico

While refusing to step down, Rossello acknowledged that the chats brought embarrassment on Puerto Ricans and vowed to make things right.

“This is a very painful situation for me, as governor, as a human being and as a Puerto Rican,” he said. “But I recognize that there is no way out and there is no worthwhile forgiveness on my part that does not include corrections and clear signs of intent to change.”

The chats were published amide a wider corruption scandal rocking the disaster-stricken island, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, according to the Post. Local newspaper Primera Hora publicized the messages after sweeping FBI probe snagged Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s former education secretary, and five other people on corruption charges last week.

The officials were charged with steering $15.5 million in federal dollars to reward unqualified contractors between 2017 and 2019. Rosselló is not being investigated, according to media reports.

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