SAN JUAN (Reuters) – Puerto Rico’s legislature started an impeachment course of towards Governor Ricardo Rosselló after an investigation into leaked chat messages discovered crimes could have been dedicated through the conversations, a senior legislator mentioned on Wednesday.
Rosselló, a first-term governor for the U.S. territory, has resisted calls to step down over a scandal native media have dubbed “Rickyleaks.” Media, together with El Nuevo Día newspaper, cited unnamed sources as saying his resignation was imminent.
“The impeachment course of has began,” mentioned Johnny Mendez, speaker of Puerto Rico’s Home of Representatives and a member of Rossello’s social gathering who was focused within the chats.
An unbiased panel of attorneys commissioned by Mendez to research the offensive messages discovered 4 felonies and one misdemeanor could have been dedicated through the Telegram message group chats, one of many attorneys, Luis Rodríguez-Rivera, mentioned in an electronic mail.
The 40-year-old governor, who’s serving in his first elected workplace, is weighing his political future after virtually two weeks of protests demanding his resignation, his spokesman Anthony Maceira mentioned in a textual content message.
“Whichever choice he makes will, as at all times, be communicated formally,” Maceira mentioned.
Journalists have been awaiting a information convention on the governor’s mansion on Wednesday the place Rosselló was anticipated to announce his resignation, or say he would face impeachment.
Banging pots and pans, blowing horns and waving Puerto Rican flags, 1000’s of protesters danced exterior.
“The folks, united, won’t ever be defeated,” they chanted.
Rows of riot police marched previous La Fortaleza, the governor’s official residence, in preparation for what some thought may turn into an evening of confrontation if Rosselló didn’t step down.
Protesters have been cautiously optimistic he would resign however mentioned the battle wasn’t over.
“I’m nonetheless preventing it doesn’t matter what as a result of whoever replaces him is simply as unhealthy as him,” mentioned Jennifer Peña, 42.
Ariel Hernandez, 54, mentioned he was assured Rosselló would depart workplace. “If he doesn’t resign tonight, we’re nonetheless assured. We’ve by no means felt so assured in our historical past,” mentioned Hernandez.
The island of three.2 million folks has been rocked by a number of crises lately, together with a chapter submitting and a devastating hurricane in 2017 that killed about three,000 folks.
If Rosselló steps down, his substitute because the U.S. territory’s chief would probably be Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez, whom many protesters reject due to her ties to the governor.
A string of Rosselló’s closest aides have stepped down as prosecutors investigated the scandal. The governor’s chief of employees Ricardo Llerandi resigned on Tuesday, citing issues for the security of his household.
The scandal erupted at about the identical time as federal investigators charged two former high-ranking Puerto Rico authorities officers with conspiracy.
The protests within the capital San Juan have been spurred by the publication on July 13 of chat messages on the messaging app Telegram, by which Rosselló and aides used profane language to explain feminine politicians and homosexual Puerto Rican celebrities, together with Ricky Martin.
Reporting by Nick Brown in San Juan; Extra reporting by Marco Bello and Luis Valentin Ortiz in San Juan, Karen Pierog in Chicago and Wealthy McKay in Atlanta; Writing by Scott Malone; Enhancing by Leslie Adler, Matthew Lewis and Cynthia Osterman