Puerto Rico governor refuses to resign as island braces for big protest

Demonstrators protest for the resignation of Puerto Rico's governor Ricardo Rossello in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday. -Reuters photo

SAN JUAN - Puerto Rico's governor on Sunday said he would not seek re-election next year but refused to resign as the island braced for more protests by demonstrators demanding he step down over offensive chat messages.

A day before a planned general strike and massive street demonstrations in the bankrupt US territory, Ricardo Rossello, 40, said he respected the wishes of Puerto Ricans and would not seek a second term in November 2020 elections.

He also said he would resign as head of his New Progressive Party (PNP) but would remain as governor until the end of his term in January, 2021.

"I know that apologizing is not enough," Rossello said in a video posted on Facebook. "A significant sector of the population has been protesting for days. I'm aware of the dissatisfaction and discomfort they feel. Only my work will help restore the trust of these sectors."

His comments drew outrage from many Puerto Ricans, with social media videos showing San Juan residents leaning out of apartment windows banging pots and pans in a third day of so-called "cacerolazo" protests.

The July 13 publication of sexist and homophobic chat messages between Rossello and top aides unleashed simmering resentment over his handling of devastating 2017 hurricanes, alleged corruption in his administration and the island's bankruptcy process.

"'#Resign Ricky isn't just a call for him to resign from the party, but from his seat as the top official," tweeted Linda Michelle, an industrial engineer and Puerto Rico radio personality. "Whoever wasn't sure about going to the march tomorrow has now made up their mind to go."

Puerto Rico's non-voting representative to the U.S. Congress, as well as Democratic presidential candidates and lawmakers have called for the governor to step aside after nine days of sometimes violent protests. -Reuters