Gov. Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico announced his resignation tonight, conceding that he could no longer credibly remain in power after an extraordinary popular uprising and looming impeachment proceedings had derailed his administration.
In a statement posted online late Wednesday, Rosselló, 40, said he would step down on Aug. 2.
Rosselló is the first chief executive to step down during a term since Puerto Ricans started electing their governors in 1947.
Until earlier this week, he had been expected to seek re-election in 2020.
Rosselló’s remarkable downfall followed more than a week of fervent public protests demanding his exit and a day of anxious anticipation on Wednesday.
He said his successor for the moment would be the secretary of justice, Wanda Vázquez, a former district attorney who once headed the island’s office of women’s affairs.
Vázquez was next in line under the commonwealth’s Constitution after the secretary of state, who would have succeeded as governor, resigned last week when he also was caught up in a chat scandal that enveloped Rosselló’s administration.
But he appeared to leave open the possibility that a different successor could be in place by the time he steps down.
His ouster by popular demand meant more to Puerto Ricans than a rejection of Rosselló’s administration.
It amounted to a resounding repudiation of decades of mismanagement and decline that everyday people blamed on politicians in San Juan and Washington.
The news follows the island’s largest protest in recent history calling for Rosselló’s ouster over scandals involving leaked private chats as well as corruption investigations and arrests.
Earlier in the day, members of Rosselló’s party said they would begin impeachment proceedings against him.
Thousands have jammed the streets of San Juan calling for the governor’s resignation after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published a series of group messages between the governor and his inner circle that included homophobic and misogynistic language and jokes about Hurricane Maria victims.
Demonstrators have said were determined to stay on the streets until Rosselló stepped down.
Rosselló’s chief of staff, Ricardo Llerandi, who was involved in the chat, had resigned earlier in the day, saying that he and his family had received threats.
A San Juan native, Vázquez worked for the Puerto Rico department of housing in the 1980s.
She was then a district attorney for the island’s department of justice for 20 years, where she specialized in domestic and sexual abuse.
She was appointed to head the office of women’s rights in 2010.
However, during her time there she was criticized by women’s rights activists for her “poor performance” as well as a “lack of commitment to the protection of human rights.”