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Puerto Rico governor will not seek re-election after leak of compromising messages

Agence France-Presse
The governor of Puerto Rico has accepted impeachment and will not run for re-election - REX

Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello has announced he will not seek re-election next year following protests demanding his resignation following the release of compromising messages.

"I have listened, and I am listening to you today," Mr Rossello said in a video posted on Facebook. "I have made mistakes and I have apologized."

"I admit that apologizing is not enough. In this case, I announce that I will not seek reelection as governor next year," he said, adding that he will also leave the presidency of the New Progressive Party.

Protests erupted last week after the leak of hundreds of pages of text chats on the encrypted messaging app Telegram in which Mr Rossello and 11 other male administration members criticize officials, politicians and journalists.

In one exchange, chief financial officer Christian Sobrino makes homophobic references to Latin superstar Ricky Martin, and in another, mocked corpses in a morgue after Hurricane Maria, that left 3,000 dead.

There had been widespread protests in Puerto Rico Credit: REX

The politician, who advocates statehood for the US territory of Puerto Rico, had said in March that he would seek reelection in polls scheduled for November 2020.

Mr Rossello also said that he would face impeachment proceedings being studied by the legislature "with all the truth, force and in a responsible manner."

Former governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla told Telemundo that Mr Rossello "is buying time to see if the protests die down."

On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in front of the governor's residence, chanting slogans such as "They will not stop us" and holding signs that said "Ricky resign."

"You have to go... to make change, you have to resign and have another, more capable person take your place," said protester Jose Maldonado.

Mr Rossello is also under pressure after US federal agents arrested contractors and government officials - including former education secretary Julia Keleher - on corruption charges.

Police fired tear gas at the crowd on Monday after a fire broke out near the government headquarters. Five protesters were arrested.

Local celebrity performers such as rapper Benito Martinez ("Bad Bunny"), pop icon Martin and Rene Perez ("Residente") urged their fellow Puerto Ricans to turn out for a demonstration that drew thousands of people.