Rosselló Is Out and Puerto Ricans Vow to Clean House

Jul 25, 2019
12:55 PM

SAN JUAN In one of the most extraordinary events in Puerto Rican history, Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced on Wednesday that he would resign from the position effective Friday, August 2, 2019, at 5:00 p.m., after two weeks of mass protests, strikes, and international calls for his resignation.

During a taped message released at 11:30 p.m. (nearly six hours after Rosselló was originally set to speak), Rosselló said that after hearing people’s grievances, he will be resigning as governor.

“I hope that this decision will serve as a call for the reconciliation that we so desperately need in order to move forward with Puerto Rico’s welfare as our goal. My mandate is over and the most I wish for is peace and progress for our people,” he said.

In his message, Rosselló also stated that the person who assumes the position “will need the will of the people and the support of those who work tirelessly for our land,” and that according to the legal system, that person would be the current secretary of the Department of Justice, Wanda Vázquez Garced.

The issue with this is that the Secretary of Justice does not hold the trust of the people. Vázquez Garced has had a troubled term as Secretary of Justice. She was under investigation late last year for intervening in a case that involved her daughter, she has a long-standing feud with the President of the Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz, and yesterday, journalist Sandra Rodríguez Cotto published an article which details different ways in which Secretary Vázquez broke the law.

In Rodríguez Cotto’s blog, she posted an exchange between Vázquez Garced and Raúl Maldonado (former Secretary of Treasury and Rosselló’s Chief of Staff whose firing on June 25 jump-started the events of the last month). Maldonado, then Chief of Staff, asked Vázquez Garced to look into sone disappeared storage containers that held aid for Hurricane María victims that allegedly went to government officials.

Vázquez Garced allegedly used her position in the Department of Justice to dismiss the claim of criminal intent, so that she recused herself from having to investigate.

Screenshot of a conversation between Wanda Vázquez Garced (white) and Raúl Maldonado (green)

Another document posted by Rodríguez Cotto shows how Vázquez Garced also allegedly knew of an influence-peddling scheme involving a former Rosselló aid and her husband who were pressuring officials to obtain licenses to distribute medicinal weed.

“This presents a pattern of selective processing and double standards when investigating corruption cases,” wrote the journalist on her blog.

Vázquez Garced released a statement early Thursday morning, rejecting the expressions from Rodríguez Cotto’s blog that she committed incriminating acts, and responded to each accusation saying that she took the necessary measures at the time.

Later, the Office of Government Ethics told El Vocero that they will investigate these leaks.

These leaked documents incriminate Vázquez Garced in a way that would make it hard for her to become Governor, but people have been asking for her resignation for days.

Days before it became clear that Rosselló’s resignation was imminent, the hashtag #WandaRenuncia was already trending in Puerto Rico, and only skyrocketed after Rosselló’s resignation announcement. The call for her resignation has only grown.

Although the evening of June 24 was full of joy, tears, and celebration, for many the fight continues. Artists like Residente and hundreds on social media have been very vocal saying that even if Rosselló did resign, the fight would continue to clean house and rid the Puerto Rican government of corruption.

For many, this includes removing Vázquez Garced, Rivera Schatz, and other high-ranking officials of Rosselló’s government.

Catherine Badillo, from the University of Puerto Rico’s Colectiva Feminista Interseccional told Latino Rebels that with Rosselló’s resignation, and with the new #WandaLeaks, things are nowhere near over.

“She cannot be governor because she has covered for people, she has covered evidence, experienced first-hand impunity, she has fabricated cases, and she’s had knowledge of the government’s corruption schemes and decided to not act on them,” Badillo said.

The activist said that Ricky was just one head, and the people will add the same pressure to Vázquez Garced and whoever else needs to be pressured.

In terms of what’s next, Badillo says that there are many proposals on the table.

“We have to audit the debt, remove the Fiscal Control Board, decolonize Puerto Rico, amend the Constitution or create a new one, reform the educational system, and many other things,” she said.

The people listed in the tweet above represent a government that many now-believe served itself and not the people, and calls for their resignation —and indictment in Sánchez’s case— are growing louder with each passing day.

Another issue with the transition is that because Rosselló broke his word on Wednesday, the House of Representatives will continue with the impeachment process beginning with a meeting with his caucus Thursday at 2:00 p.m.. Early in the morning, House Speaker, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez told the media that he completely distrusts Rosselló.

During a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Méndez said Rosselló had told him that he would resign at 5:00 pm, but after failing to do so, Méndez called for an extraordinary session of the House of Representatives.

Puerto Rico Continues Marching

In a mass gathering summoned by reggaetón artist René “Residente” Pérez Joglar, people have taken to the streets today to march from a traverse called La Milla de Oro to the Hiram Bithorn Stadium to both celebrate the resignation of Ricardo Rosselló, and call for a drastic change in the Government.

A woman holds a sign that says “Wanda Vázquez, Fiscal Board, and corrupt [politicians] out” as people march through the financial district as they celebrate the ouster of Ricardo Rossello, the Governor of Puerto Rico, on July 25, 2019 in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Aside from Residente, the march will include participation from Bad Bunny, Nicky Jam, and Wisin.

An Uncertain Future

The future of Puerto Rico holds a lot of uncertainty, and this thread by Latino Rebels founder Julio Ricardo Varela, summarizes all the questions many have right now.

Amid all these questions, what is certain is that the people of Puerto Rico are ready to continue taking the streets in protest.


Natalia Rodríguez Medina is the 2019 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She is a member the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s Class of 2019. Natalia tweets from @nataliarodmed.