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Top Puerto Rican officials resign over profanity-laced chat

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, shown here at a Thursday news conference, announced today that his chief financial officer and secretary of state will step down following their participation in a private chat that used profanities to describe U.S. and New York government officials.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico >> Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced today that his chief financial officer and secretary of state will step down following their participation in a private chat that used profanities to describe an ex-New York City government official and a federal control board overseeing the island’s finances.

The U.S. territory’s CFO Christian Sobrino, who is also the governor’s representative to the federal control board, announced he was stepping down via Twitter today. Its Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marin also offered his resignation.

Rossello later released a statement saying he would let go members of his administration who participated in the chat on a messaging system used by government officials. The release of the chat’s contents in local media had led to calls for the governor’s resignation.

Rossello apologized for the comments late Thursday, saying he’d been working 18-hour days and releasing tensions when he called former New York City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito the Spanish word for “whore” and in English told the oversight board to “go f—- yourself” followed by a string of emojis with the middle finger raised.

“Aware that the current environment cannot be maintained, I have communicated to all the other public officials involved in the chat that I will have to dispense with their services and/or their advice,” he said in the statement.

He said that he would ask Ricardo Llerandi to remain as Puerto Rico’s secretary of the interior and Anthony Maceira to stay as secretary of Public Affairs.

“This is a very painful situation for me, as Governor, as a human being and as a Puerto Rican,” Rossello said. “But I recognize there is no other way out and there is no worthwhile forgiveness on my part that does not include corrections and clear signs of intent to change.”

The comments had drawn the ire of many Puerto Ricans who said they were ashamed of his language and of how this might affect the reputation of the U.S. territory, which had already come under scrutiny earlier this week with the arrests of former government officials including the island’s education secretary.

Rosselló said late Thursday that he had not yet spoken to Mark-Viverito, who posted a lengthy statement on Twitter that read in part, “A person who uses that language against a woman, whether a public figure or not, should not govern Puerto Rico … this type of behavior is completely unacceptable.”

In the chat, Rossello wrote that he was upset Mark-Viverito had criticized Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, for supporting statehood for Puerto Rico.

Those who participated in the chat included Llerandi, Sobrino, former public affairs secretary Ramon Rosario and Rossello, who has said he doesn’t know who leaked excerpts of the private chat.

Rossello has said he will not resign.

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