Top Puerto Rican officials resign amid group chat scandal – National


Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced that his chief financial officer and secretary of state will be following his participation in a private chat that used to profanity to describe an ex-New York City official overseeing the island's finances.

The U.S. territory's CFO Christian Sobrino, who is also the governor of the control board, announced he was stepping down via Twitter on Saturday. Its Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marin also offered his resignation.

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Rossello later released with the statement saying he would be a member of the administration who participated in the chat on a messaging system used by government officials. The release of the chat's contents in local media had led to calls for the governor's resignation.

Rossello apologized for late comments, saying he'd been working 18-hour days and releasing tensions when he called former New York City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito the Spanish word for “whore” and in English told the oversight board go f— by yourself "followed by a string of emojis with the middle finger raised.

"He said in the statement" I said in the statement.

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He said he would ask Ricardo Llerandi to remain as Puerto Rico's secretary of interior and Anthony Maceira to stay as secretary of Public Affairs.

"This is a very painful situation for me, as Governor, as a human being and as in Puerto Rican," Rossello said. "But I recognize there is no other way out and there is no worthwhile forgiveness on my part that does not include corrections and clear signs of intent to change."

Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez announced that she was appointing a special task force to determine whether or not any laws were broken.

The comments had drawn the ire of many Puerto Ricans who said they were ashamed of his language and how this might affect the reputation of the U.S. territory, which had already been under scrutiny earlier this week with the arrests of former government officials, including the island's education secretary.

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Rossello said late Thursday that he had not yet spoken to Mark Viverito, who posted a lengthy Twitter statement that read in part, "A person who uses language against a woman, whether a public figure or not, should not govern Puerto Rico … this type of behavior is completely unacceptable. "

In the chat, Rossello wrote that he was upset Mark-Viverito had criticized Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, for supporting statehood for Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin, who was mentioned in the chat with a homophobic comment, urged Rossello to step down.

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Martin tweeted that the governor "lacks the abilities of a true leader, who inspires, stimulates and guides by example I know that our people are at a higher level of life."

Rossello, who faces other troubles, has said he will not resign.

Days earlier, FBI agents arrested Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s former secretary, and five others, politically connected contractors.

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Officials said the alleged fraud involves $ 15.5 million worth of federal funding issued between 2017 and 2019. They said $ 13 million was spent by Puerto Rico's Department of Education while Keleher was secretary and another $ 2.5 million spent by Angela Avila Marrero when she was director of Puerto Rico's Health Insurance Administration. Avila Marrero was charged along with businessmen Fernando Scherrer-Caillet and Alberto Velazquez-Pinol, and education contractors Glenda E. Ponce-Mendoza and Mayra Ponce-Mendoza, who are sisters.

Officials said there was no evidence that Keleher or Avila-Marrero had personally benefited from the scheme.

On Thursday, a group of protesters had gathered at Puerto Rico's main international airport to received Rossello as a cut to European vacation short to address the arrests and the leaked chat. The protesters then traveled to the governor's seaside mansion where Rossello spoke late Thursday and demanded his resignation.



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