US & Canada

Calls for Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló to quit over text scandal

Governor Ricardo Rossello listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 10, 2018 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Governor Ricardo Rossello is facing calls to resign

The governor of Puerto Rico is facing calls to resign over a group text message scandal that has already caused two top officials to leave their posts.

Governor Ricardo Rosselló's leaked text conversations with members of his administration revealed sexist, profane and homophobic comments.

Protests began after the Center for Investigative Journalism published over 800 pages of texts on Saturday.

Mr Rosselló, who is up for re-election in 2020, has said he will not resign.

The governor of the US commonwealth, who leads the New Progressive Party, said in a radio interview that he might re-think his re-election bid next year, NBC News reported.

Local lawmakers, activists and advocacy groups have called on Mr Rosselló to resign over the messages, which some say has damaged Puerto Rico's reputation.

Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marin and Chief Financial Officer Christian Sobrino, two officials involved in the chat, resigned over the weekend.

The secretaries of the interior and public affairs, along with the former finance secretary, the governor's legal adviser and several non-public officials were other participants.

Dating from the end of last year to 20 January, the texts contain derogatory comments against women, political opponents and journalists as well as privileged information and instructions regarding public policy matters, according to the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI).

The BBC has not independently verified the texts.

In one message, the governor jokes with Mr Sobrino about shooting San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.

Mr Rosselló also used profanity when discussing the federal oversight group working on Puerto Rico's debt crisis. Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin was also referenced in a homophobic remark.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Protesters called for the governor's resignation in the fallout over the leaked texts

The governor has claimed the memes and jokes were "done on people's personal time", and while he was working stressful 18-hour days.

Mr Rosselló said in a statement on Saturday: "I was elected by the people and I will continue the mission that was granted to me, now more than ever."

Ricky Martin tweeted that Mr Rosselló's remarks were "shameful and unacceptable" and could not be resolved with an apology.

He called for the governor to give up his office as "an act of true generosity" for Puerto Rico, saying: "We cannot allow our Puerto Rico to stay in the hands of such 'leaders.'"

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A protestor carrying a sign that reads Ricky resign

This latest scandal comes as two other former top government officials from Mr Rosselló's administration were among a group arrested last week and charged with conspiracy and fraud, involving millions in federal funding.

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Media captionMonths after Maria, many on this US island still suffered in the dark

And Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017 and claimed thousands of lives. Mr Rosselló has faced criticism for his handling of the recovery efforts.

The commonwealth is also in the midst of a financial crisis with billions of dollars in debt.

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