Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello Will Not Seek Reelection In 2020
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Puerto Rico's governor says he's quitting - just not right now. Ricardo Rossello made that announcement in response to protesters who were expecting a lot more, which explains why they are still planning to protest today.
Adrian Florido of NPR's Code Switch team has been in San Juan covering this story. Hey there, Adrian.
ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: How did this announcement unfold?
FLORIDO: Well, yesterday evening, without any advance notice - with protesters forming in large numbers outside the governor's mansion, Governor Rossello went onto Facebook Live and, in what seemed to be a very hastily put-together announcement, started speaking to people who were streaming his address all across the island. Let's hear what he said.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
RICARDO ROSSELLO: (Speaking Spanish).
FLORIDO: So the governor said that he would not be running for reelection next year, that he would be resigning the presidency of his party and that he would also welcome the opportunity to defend himself in an impeachment process the island's legislature appears to be preparing to initiate. And what, obviously, that meant to people who were listening to his address was that he does not intend to resign as people have been demanding for more than a week now.
INSKEEP: Yeah. And you mentioned how hastily put-together it seemed - not very well-lit; it wasn't a very formal setting; he didn't have an audience. He was just throwing this out there, looking at the camera and talking. But will this quick announcement be enough to satisfy protesters?
FLORIDO: It doesn't seem like it will be. I walked over to the governor's mansion sort of shortly after his livestream on Facebook ended and talked to people who said, no, they felt even more motivated to keep protesting in order to get the governor to resign immediately.
INSKEEP: Wow. So what has made the public so upset - or some parts of the public so upset with the governor that even saying he's going to step down in a year is not quick enough?
FLORIDO: Well, you know, when these protests started last week, they started as these protests against the governor motivated, in large part, by these horrible text messages that he had sent to members of his inner circle in which he used all kinds of misogynistic and offensive language to insult opponents, everyday Puerto Ricans.
But in the weeks since, they've exploded into these massive demonstrations, these protests have, over people's sort of angers and frustrations with decades of corruption in government here, with the many crises that the island faces - economic crises, post-hurricane crises. And while there still is no real sense of where this protest movement that has just sort of exploded sort of in this grassroots way, where it's headed and what people want after the governor steps down, assuming he does, you know, people do know that the first thing they want is for this governor to be gone so that they can start to figure out what comes next.
INSKEEP: Does he have any significant allies left as he tries to survive his final year-and-a-half or so in office?
FLORIDO: He doesn't seem to have any significant political allies left. Everybody has sort of abandoned him. Yesterday, he did leave the governor's mansion for - in the evening to have a meeting with some of the more prominent mayors across the island. And it seemed like he was trying to sort of shore up political support. But it's not exactly clear what these mayors said to him or whether they told him that it was time to consider leaving office.
INSKEEP: Although I'm not thinking there was an issue with - involving some racist photos and the governor of Virginia a few months ago, and it seemed that everyone there expected him to resign. He just kind of declined to do so. And there he is. Ralph Northam's still in office. Is there any move to impeach the governor or force him out in some way before his term would end?
FLORIDO: The island's legislature is considering doing that right now. And as the governor said in his statement, he intends to defend himself. But it does seem like this could take a while, given that the legislature is not in session right now.
INSKEEP: Adrian Florido of NPR's Code Switch team. Adrian, thanks so much.
FLORIDO: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's Adrian Florido, who's been quite noted for his coverage of Puerto Rico and is in San Juan. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.