Public Affairs secretary says Puerto Rico governor still ‘in a process of reflection and of listening to the people’
Soon-to-step-down chief of staff: All options on the table
SAN JUAN — The Puerto Rico governor’s usually bustling La Fortaleza mansion in Old San Juan had a quiet Wednesday morning with very few employees around. Likewise, the streets of Old San Juan were also calm, in stark contrast with the night before, when demonstrators continued demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.
However, shortly after noon, Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira issued a statement: “Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló has not resigned and is presently in Puerto Rico. As he stated yesterday, he is in a process of reflection and of listening to the people. Whatever decision he makes, it will be communicated officially, as usual. Currently, due to the expectant environment, there are incorrect rumors that are being disseminated, even by some media outlets. We reiterate that any official communication will be shared with the media.”
The statement was later revised by the governor’s press office to reflect it was dated Wednesday, not Tuesday, as originally issued.
Across Old San Juan, at the Capitol, the House of Representatives was reportedly evaluating whether the leaked chat group messages that sparked the uproar among Puerto Ricans constitute impeachable charges. The majority New Progressive Party representatives were expected to convene to discuss the report at noon.
House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez created the committee after public outcry also put pressure on the legislature to begin impeachment proceedings against Rosselló.
The spokesman of the minority Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez, demanded Wednesday that Speaker Méndez call the representatives to begin the impeachment process as soon as possible.
“We demand the speaker convene and begin the process today. We are ready. The independent representative [Manuel Natal Albelo] and the spokesman for the Puerto Rican Independence Party [(PIP) Denis Márquez] is also ready, so we are 17 votes. What is needed is 17 votes in the New Progressive Party take the step, and that would force the governor…. This is a process that is designed not to be done—because the process is very unfortunate—and resigns. That is what we are looking for.”
The speaker met with the PDP caucus at noon to discuss the report by lawyers Francisco Reyes Caparrós, Luis Enrique Rodríguez Rivera and Enrique Colón Santana, “who concluded that there were five crimes, for of which are serious,” CyberNews reports, stemming from the leaked messages in the Telegram app chat group were Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares and 11 officials and confidants strategized against opposition using offensive language.
On Tuesday night, the newspaper El Nuevo Día and El Vocero reported that their sources had assured Rosselló was to present his resignation shortly.
La Fortaleza’s deputy press secretary, Michelle De la Cruz Valencia, had not answered phone calls or text messages early Wednesday to confirm whether any announcement would be made, and later told the press that the governor had not issued any new statements since Tuesday’s, when he said he would limit his future remarks to government work.
“[On Monday], as in the past few days, I have remained attentive and silent about the demonstrations carried out as part of the right of citizens to their free expression. When one party speaks legitimately, the other is responsible for listening carefully.
“The people are speaking and I have to listen. This has been a period of total reflection and making decisions that are being executed according to the concerns of the people of Puerto Rico and their best interests. For the moment, the future expressions that I will issue will be about the actions we carry out as part of the Government’s work, as promised and expected by the People,” Rosselló said Tuesday.
Rosselló’s chief of staff, Ricardo Llerandi, who tendered his resignation effective July 31, said in an interview on Radio Isla that “for the first time, I have to say, [Rosselló] was in a profound reflection. He has not informed me of his decision,” and when pressed, Llerandi said that “all options are on the table,” including resignation, and that the governor who spoke with them Tuesday was “another person.”
Llerandi said Rosselló believes the process begun by the Legislative Assembly and the Department of Justice has been unfair.
“He let us know that he recognizes the implications, although he believes that it has perhaps been an unfair process. He is also very aware of the implications it may have for the people. I believe he could give some remarks in the next few days,” Llerandi said.
The soon-to-depart official also had to address claims by mayors that they cannot reach agency secretaries and the government is at a standstill.
“There’s a crisis in the government and [that] is recognized,” Llerandi said when arguing that the government functions and services are not paralyzed because of the developments, including the wave of resignations.