On Wednesday evening, Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Rosselló delivered a pre-taped message where he announced his resignation from office. Then, on Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez posted Rosselló’s official resignation letter.
— Johnny Méndez (@JohnnyMndez36) July 25, 2019
Below is a full translation of the address.
Puerto Rican sisters and brothers:
I have always been accountable. I have always done my best to establish the right choices and recognize the wrong ones.
For two and a half years I worked alongside my family with all my heart and with effort to make this a better island. And even though I feel there is still much to do, I am deeply grateful to those who stepped forward with me to do their best in this praiseworthy deed.
Over the past few days, many of you have been exercising your right to freedom of expression. The claim has been overwhelming and I have received it with the highest degree of humility.
Since I was sworn in, I have made every effort to ensure that my decisions always take into account the welfare of our people. The hours dedicated to the preparation, elaboration, and execution of work plans are hours where my only north has been the transformation of our island.
When I was sworn in as the twelfth governor, I did so aware of the challenges of that moment. It was the first time in our history that we would have to work with a Fiscal Oversight Board imposed by the United States Congress; immersed in bankruptcy, with a deficit exceeding $7 billion and without sufficient funds for payroll and pensions.
Thus, against all odds, we managed to approve the first fiscal plan and the public policy of the Plan for Puerto Rico, establishing the path of planning, execution, and progress that has led us to achieve the first balanced budget in a very long time.
I remember that when assuming the governorship, the public opinion bet on the dismissal of public employees. There were no layoffs. Better yet, we increased the salary of our teachers and police officers in the midst of a bankruptcy, the most recent being this week with a new increase to police. Even the retirement contributions of our public employees had been wasted for more than a decade. We had to resort to substantial spending cuts to secure pension payments for our retirees; we created unprecedented pension reform. The Board then sought daytime cuts, the elimination of the Christmas bonus, and pension cuts, but we stood up and prevailed. We faced the discrimination of a federal government against Puerto Ricans. The resources that Puerto Rico has begun to receive for its reconstruction are the fruit of our work and claim, together with the resident commissioner and our teamwork, before the federal Congress. Those federal funds continue to flow and now begin with mitigation projects totaling $3 billion.
Today we have the first positive economic growth in more than a decade —with 4.1 percent growth— and the lowest unemployment rate in our entire history, lifting thousands of parents out of the suffering of poverty. After a past of increases in tax burdens, we lowered taxes and created the work credit for the working middle class, which will give up to $2,000 more to the Puerto Rican pocketbook. We created new industries in Puerto Rico such as medicinal cannabis, video gaming, sports betting, cryptocurrency, and facilitated investment in important lines such as tourism.
We reformed the permits, reducing the average time from 100 days to 20 and creating an integrated system. In the area of infrastructure, we have several public-private partnerships ready for this semester, including maritime transportation and the privatization of the transmission and distribution of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. We passed a cutting-edge law, where we aspire to have 40 percent renewable by 2023 and 0 percent coal burning by 2020.
We established Abriendo Caminos where we are now investing in our highways over $652 million and the impact is being seen.
We repaired public finances with extraordinary adjustments and collections that allowed us to pay rebates, meet suppliers, and undertake social justice and innovation initiatives.
We named the largest number of women in major positions in our history. We established equal pay for equal employment, the Maletín Empresarial para la Mujer (Business Briefcase for Women) and today I signed the special license for victims of domestic violence. We defended the rights of the LGBTT community. We also encouraged the integration of faith-based organizations into various executive projects, such as church schools.
Thousands of Puerto Ricans today have options to choose education for their children with educational vouchers; just as hundreds of thousands can choose their health service throughout the island with the Vital plan. Also today, we retain more specialists in Puerto Rico, thanks to incentives developed with the Legislative Assembly.
Establishing mechanisms to fight corruption has been our north, creating the Office of the Inspector General, the Anti-Corruption Code, the Medicaid Fraud Unit, public finance reports, lobbyists registry; and recently the new Purchase and Auction Law, aiming to have a system that gives greater certainty and greater credibility to the people, that combats corruption.
I want to make special mention of the work of the First Lady: impacting communities and restoring them with the program Fortaleza para Ti, assuring animal welfare with initiatives such as Spay-A-Thon. Beatriz never stopped working for our people and always gave them her heart.
In the end, results are what counts. Let us recognize that they are favorable results, in the worst imaginable scenario. This feat does not come about by magic or luck. These results emanate from the work, sacrifice and love that one applies. I gave myself up. I did my best, dedicating day and night, weekends and holidays to attend to each one of the needs of my people.
No government has been able to implement transformational changes that make today’s Puerto Rico a more equitable and just place.
In September 2017, nature reminded us of our smallness before God’s plans and will. We all witnessed how two category 4 and 5 hurricanes passed through Puerto Rico with only 14 days between them. In the immediate response to these phenomena, we went from being victims of these devastating storms to being the response center for our neighbors in the Caribbean.
In the face of the onslaught and suffering caused by Hurricane Irma and while we were on our way to recovery in the most affected towns on the island, I had the privilege of giving the order and working to coordinate the rescue, transportation and care of thousands of people who were affected by the ravages of this terrible storm. Once again, demonstrating the heart, generosity and selflessness of my people, in collaboration with sister agencies of the federal government, we carried out the largest rescue mission in the history of the United States in the Caribbean.
In all the decisions I have made as governor, I have made every effort to ensure that they have always taken into account the welfare of my land. The hours dedicated to the preparation, elaboration, and execution of work plans are hours where my only north has been the transformation of our island and the well-being of our people. Even in times of tribulation, I have always felt that my responsibility was to do my job within the term prescribed by law. I was willing to face any challenge, having the full understanding that I would prevail over any imputation or any process.
Despite having the mandate of the people who democratically elected me, today I feel that to continue in this position represents a difficulty for the success achieved to last.
After hearing the claim, speaking with my family, thinking about my children and in prayer, I have made the following decision: with detachment, today I announce that I will be resigning from the post of governor, effective Friday, August 2, 2019, at 5:00 pm.
These days I will be attending to pending matters that make an orderly transition possible. At that time I will complete my mandate and give way to the process of succession established by our Constitution to swear the oath to whoever at that time should complete the project outlined for this quadrennium.
Today I honor the Constitution with my actions. The same Constitution that allowed me to be elected in November 2016. The same Constitution that allowed the free expression of the people and the same Constitution that will allow an orderly transition according to its provisions. Provisions that were conceived by great Puerto Ricans who lectured in 1952 in shaping a modern, progressive and wise Constitution. But, as it is celebrated, I call upon you to defend and preserve it as the legal vehicle by virtue of which we organize ourselves politically.
The person who assumes the weight of the office I have had the honor and privilege of occupying will need the will of the people and the support of those who work tirelessly for our land. At this time, according to the legal system, that person would be the current Secretary of the Department of Justice, Wanda Vázquez. I am confident that Puerto Rico will continue to unite and move forward as it has always done.
I hope that this decision will serve as a call for the citizen reconciliation that we so desperately need in order to move forward with Puerto Rico’s welfare as our north. My mandate is over and the most I wish for is peace and progress for our people.
Transformation and progress are not linked to one person: it is the product of the united work of one people. That was my north with the Plan for Puerto Rico; that was my north as governor; that will continue to be my watchword for the future.
May the unified strength of the people be channeled into constructive energy. May law, order, and progress be an essential part of that recipe. That we choose to create and build institutions that respond to the people and do not produce chaos and misgovernment.
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to serve you. It has been the greatest honor for me and my family.
God protect Puerto Rico.
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.