Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló defiantly announced he would not step down Tuesday, hours after police fired tear gas into crowds of protesters calling for his ouster.
Protests have been taking place for days following the release of nearly 900 pages from the governor’s private group chat obtained by The Center for Investigative Journalism and published via Telegram.
The leaked chats reveal a vengeful approach in running the government, with conversations between Rosselló and his inner circle including homophobic and anti-female sentiments.
Rosselló told reporters Tuesday that he will not resign. He also defended the actions of police and accused protestors of unleashing tear gas and setting fires during demonstrations Monday night.
“I will continue my work and my responsibility to the people of Puerto Rico,” the embattled governor said at a news conference.
The leaks came the same week two former officials from Rosselló’s administration were arrested by the FBI as part of a federal corruption investigation.
Now, both civilians and politicians are calling for the governor’s resignation, with protesters filling the street in front of the governor’s mansion in Old San Juan.
Leaked chats with his inner circle
Rosselló said that he was the only person on the chats elected by the people of Puerto Rico and that he would work to restore the public’s confidence in him.
“I have not committed any illegal or corrupt acts,” he said. “I committed inappropriate acts and have expressed regret for that.”
In one conversation about the management of Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, the governor wrote “Dear Oversight Board, Go F*** Yourself.”
Other remarks disparage politicians and journalists.
In one chat, Christian Sobrino Vega, then-Puerto Rico’s chief fiscal officer and Roselló’s representative on the federal board managing the fiscal crisis, expressed frustration with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and said he wanted to shoot her.
“You’d be doing me a grand favor,” the governor responded, according to the leaked chats.
Politicians call for investigation
Even those involved with Roselló are pulling support amid the scandal.
Carlos Johnny Méndez, speaker of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives and a member of Rosselló’s New Progressive Party, told a local radio show Monday morning that he’d been in touch with the governor and was pulling back his support.
“There are many issues to address, and we cannot have these distractions,” Méndez said on the show.
Puerto Rico Sen. Aníbal José Torres, who chairs the Popular Democratic Party, has called for an investigation, saying he believes the chats contain ethical and criminal violations.
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, the territory’s nonvoting representative in the US Congress, who was also mocked in the group chat, said the governor’s apologies are not enough.
Some are even planning to take part in the protests.
Former New York City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, whom the governor insulted, has traveled to the island to join protesters in their calls for Rosselló to resign.
A stateside protest is planned for Tuesday in Washington, D.C., in front of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration building.
The first lady defends her husband
Beatriz Rosselló wrote a letter addressing the calls for Rosselló to resign, saying she felt she owed the community an explanation.
In the letter she defends her husband, saying that although he has failed, the governor has accepted it with humility and has asked for forgiveness.
Rosselló says her husband immediately apologized for his words and she believes he means it.
“He made a mistake, he recognized it, and immediately apologized for it,” the letter reads. “We had a conversation about it, I know him well, I recognize his sincerity and therefore I understand his sincerity, and I believe his regret.”
The chats use derogatory terms against women, including Mark-Viverito, and homophobic comments about singer Ricky Martin.
But the first lady says that Rosselló has respect for women and values family. “Ricardo, like me, values women, the family, and inclusion,” she said. “He was raised to a higher standard with respect.”
She says her husband has begun several initiatives during times of adversity that have benefited the territory and that citizens shouldn’t lose sight of the changes he’s made.
“Ricardo feels a deep love for this land and people,” Beatriz Rosselló said. “His mandates have been concentrated on establishment, tranquility and security for our people.”
Rosselló says he will not resign
The governor said he has much work left to do.
“Despite the difficulties that we have internal and external, the work will continue and the agenda will be completed in all areas, social, educational, safety, health, infrastructure, recovery and everything related to the financial situation that is a high priority among others,” he said.
“You do not give up on work already started, and today, more than ever, a lot of people are counting on my commitment to do so.”
If Rosselló were to resign, the law says the secretary of state, a post that is currently empty, is next in line to take the helm, followed by the island’s treasurer.
Roselló’s office has not responded to CNN’s request for an interview.