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Pressure mounts for Puerto Rico governor's resignation amid scandal

PUERTO RICO GOVERNOR | 15 de julio de 2019

San Juan, Jul 15 (efe-epa).- Pressure is mounting in Puerto Rico for Gov. Ricardo Rossello to resign after the revelation of the contents of private online chats in which he made or participated in homophobic comments, insults and even joked about the deaths from Hurricane Maria.

On Monday, Rossello said that he would not resign and would make decisions that, in his judgment, are the best for Puerto Rico.

In his first interview after publication of the contents of the chat - known as the Telegramgate scandal - Rossello also worked to clarify on radio Nacion Z that after evaluating and analyzing the situation he had concluded that he had not committed any crime by expressing himself as he did.

The huge number of private chat messages with other officials and close associates included profanity and derogatory comments about gays, women and others, and Rossello said in a radio interview after the scandal broke and amid the huge public outcry over it that he would reconsider whether to run for re-election next year.

He said in the radio interview that none of the information in the chats was "privileged or confidential" and apologized for his comments to the Puerto Rican public, adding that this situation was "difficult" for him but saying that the solution was to "keep working."

Excerpts of the Telegram instant messaging service chats, released on July 8 - along with the full text of the chats, amounting to 889 pages of text, released on Saturday by the Center for Investigative Journalism - show that the group Rossello was participating in disparaged San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, New York City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito (whom Rossello called a "whore" in the chats), as well as the late Puerto Rican independence movement leader Carlos Gallisa, the federal control board managing the US commonwealth's finances and even pop star Ricky Martin, who is gay.

Other Puerto Rican officials participating in the chats included the island's former secretary of state, Luis Rivera, and the former executive director of the Aafaf financial advisory agency, Christian Sobrino, both of whom have resigned as a result.

Rossello praised both of those men, saying that Rivera was a "great person" and Sobrino had performed "titanic" work for Puerto Rico.

The serious political crisis comes at virtually the worst possible moment for the island, which is mired in bankruptcy amid a deep economic crisis while it also tries to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria two years ago.

The island's non-voting representative in the US House, Jenniffer Gonzalez - who was also ridiculed in the chats - said that the scandal casts a "shadow" over the government.

The pressure on the governor to resign has been growing each day since the scandal broke last week, and even many of his own New Progressive Party (PNP) colleagues have deserted him. Meanwhile, there have been almost daily protests against him that have, at times, become violent, calling for him to step down and declaring that if he does not do so voluntarily, the public will "throw him out."

Meanwhile, the PNP has been seeking someone to replace Rossello if he ultimately resigns.

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