Puerto Rico governor says he will not resign despite protests over scandal involving controversial texts

PHOTO: Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello speaks during a press conference in La Fortalezas Tea Room, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 16, 2019. PlayCarlos Giusti/AP
WATCH More protests erupt in Puerto Rico as thousands take to the streets

A day after protesters clashed with police outside the governor's mansion, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello insisted that he would not resign his post.

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Rossello said he understood that Monday night’s protests were a direct message against him and his administration.

"I will continue in my job," a defiant Rossello said from the governor’s mansion, adding "my commitment is to keep on working." He would not answer what it would take for him to resign and insisted that he still had the legitimacy to stay in office.

The island's embattled leader called Monday's clashes "unacceptable" and condemned the "vandalism, aggression and violence."

PHOTO: Police units protect the area near the executive mansion from protesters demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 15, 2019. Carlos Giusti/AP
Police units protect the area near the executive mansion from protesters demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 15, 2019.

The third day of protests come after the nonprofit journalism group Center of Investigative Journalism published nearly 900 pages of conversations that detail efforts to manipulate public narratives, operations to discredit negative press coverage and criticism of opposition leaders.

The conversations, made through the Telegram app, also contain sexist, homophobic and misogynistic comments from the members of the group, according to the report.

"I have not committed any illegal acts, or corrupt acts. I committed an improper act," Rossello said of the Telegram chat group messages.

Following the revelation of the messages, Rossello announced the resignation of a number of government officials including Luis Rivera Marin, the secretary of state.

On Monday, the Old San Juan streets surrounding the governor's mansion were filled with hundreds of protesters calling for Rossello to leave.

Tensions escalated later into the evening when, according to police, some demonstrators threw rocks and tear gas at officers. Police responded with tear gas and the crowd disbursed at 1 a.m. Twenty-one police officers were injured in Monday's protests, officials said.

Police Commissioner Henry Escalera told a local television station during the unrest, "We will defend democracy... until the last drop of blood."

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a written statement on Tuesday that the latest political developments on the island "prove the President’s concerns about mismanagement, politicization, and corruption have been valid."

The governor responded to the White House’s comments, saying "Corruption is a social evil. It’s a social evil in the private sector, it’s a social evil in local government, it’s a social evil in the federal government."

PHOTO: Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello speaks during a press conference in La Fortalezas Tea Room, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 16, 2019. Carlos Giusti/AP
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello speaks during a press conference in La Fortaleza's Tea Room, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 16, 2019.

Rossello addressed reports from El Vocero newspaper that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was investigating the finances of Unidos por Puerto Rico, an organization launched by the governor and first lady Beatriz Rossello, to centralize donations to the island after Hurricane Maria.

He said that neither he nor his wife have been interviewed by the FBI as he distanced his administration from the fund, saying that his wife was only the spokesperson, but his administration had nothing to do with administering it.