Puerto Rico governor under pressure over corruption probe, leaked messages

Puerto Rico governor under pressure over corruption probe, leaked messages
© Camille Fine

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló (D) was hit by a growing furor over a corruption probe that's rocked his administration and the release of private text messages where he made derogatory comments about other public figures.

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees U.S. territories including Puerto Rico, reiterated his call for Rosselló to resign in a tweet late on Wednesday.

His call comes after the FBI arrested two former officials who were part of the governor's administration. 

Grijalva had earlier told The Washington Post he believed Rosselló should resign, saying "the restoration of accountability is so key going forward.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Rosselló is scheduled to return to Puerto Rico Thursday evening from a family vacation to address the scandal. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

The corruption probe and the leaked messages comes amid political wrangling over federal aid to Puerto Rico, which is still struggling to recover from a devastating hurricane in 2017, with the island in the midst of an economic crisis.

Federal officials allege that former Puerto Rico government officials directed federal funds to friendly contractors.

So far, the FBI has arrested two top-ranking officials at BDO, an accounting firm, and two former Puerto Rico government officials.

Rosselló is not being investigated as part of the probe, according to media reports.

But the corruption probe has been compounded by the release of a series of messages shared between Rosselló and some of his closest advisers that included profanities directed at former New York City Assembly Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is politically close to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.

The messages were published by newspaper Primera Hora.

In one of the messages, Rosselló reportedly referred to Mark-Viverito as a “whore,” according to media reports.

In another message, the Puerto Rico governor mocked the Fiscal Oversight Board established by Congress to oversee the territory's finances.

"Dear Oversight Board -- Go f--- yourself," Rosselló wrote to the group, joking those were his "authorized expressions," according to the reports.

Cruz is running for the Popular Democratic Party nomination to challenge Rosselló in next year's gubernatorial election.

Rosselló caucuses locally with the New Progressive Party. Both Cruz and Rosselló are Democrats at a national level.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE tried to hold up aid to Puerto Rico earlier this year, accusing officials in the island of being "corrupt" as well as "incompetent," though Congress ultimately approved the disaster aid.