Resignation comes after leaked texts revealed misogynist and sexist exchanges, leading to 10 days of mass protests
Puerto Ricos embattled governor Ricardo Rossell has announced that he will resign as president of the ruling New Progressive party and will not contest next years gubernatorial election, but has stopped short of resigning as governor of the US territory.
The announcement, made via Facebook live, follows 10 days of mass protests over a text message scandal that prompted senior members of his own party and representatives in Washington to withdraw their support.
A large portion of the population is unhappy and I recognize it, Rossell said during the announcement. Ive heard you … Today I have the responsibility to direct my strengths to try to find alternatives so that with God we may be able to move forward.
The priority must be the people of Puerto Rico, therefore all my time must be destined to fulfil all the responsibilities I hold as governor, he added.
The message marked the 40-year-old governors first public appearance since a huge demonstration in San Juan on Wednesday where police clashed with thousands of protesters and fired teargas and rubber bullets to clear crowds outside the governors residence.
Rossell addressed the nation from his residence in San Juan following a meeting with members of his cabinet on Sunday afternoon. He is the son of former Puerto Rico governor Pedro Rossell and won the 2016 gubernatorial elections with 42% of the vote.
His insistence on staying on as governor until 2020 is not likely to satisfy protesters, who have demanded his resignation since early last week. More protesters had assembled outside the residence on Sunday as Rossell delivered his address.
Protesters had given the governor until Sunday evening to resign. A general strike and large demonstrations were planned for Monday and sources speaking to the Guardian said it was likely that the marches would still go ahead.
Last week, hundreds of pages of leaked text messages revealed misogynist and sexist exchanges between Rossell and 11 members of his inner circle. The messages also included a joke about those who died during hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in September 2017.
The administration has been plagued by corruption scandals since Maria and has hardened the islands austerity drive amid a multibillion-dollar debt crisis.
Shortly before the text message scandal erupted, the FBI arrested a number of administration officials and contractors including Rossells former education secretary over allegations of corruption and misappropriation of $15.5m (12.5m) in federal funds apportioned to Puerto Rico after Maria.
Many protesters have carried placards with the number 4,645, the estimated death toll in the wake of Maria, according to a Harvard University research paper. Rossells administration had initially recorded Marias death toll at 64, before eventually revising the number to 2,975.
The island continued to reel from the effects of the devastating hurricane amid a faltering recovery effort led by the Trump administration.