“Ricky, renuncia, el pueblo te repudia!” — “Ricky, resign, the people reject you!” That was the chant taken up by the people of Puerto Rico, who took to the streets in unprecedented protests of government corruption over the past two weeks.
Finally, late Wednesday, embattled Gov. Ricardo Rossello heeded the message and announced his resignation. It was a historic moment, and Puerto Ricans are right to take pride in an extraordinary political awakening that united the island in a demand for a better government.
But if that goal is to be fully realized, more than Rossello’s departure will be needed. It is important that Puerto Ricans continue to press for change that will root out the corruption and dysfunction that for far too long have marked how the U.S. territory has been governed.
The resignation of Rossello, who was compromised by scandals that included the leak of vulgar and insulting messages between him and his advisers, set off joyous celebration. “Fireworks. Cheers. Hugs. Pots banging,” a Fox News reporter tweeted from San Juan.
Rossello had tried mightily to stay in office: He begged for forgiveness, promised not to run for re-election and resigned as head of his party. Only after he was told the legislature planned to start impeachment proceedings did he agree to resign.
What happens next is unclear. Next in line is Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez Garced. She has been criticized for a slow response to the message scandal, and there’s speculation a different successor could be in place when Rossello steps down Aug. 2.
There should be no talk of cutting off help to Puerto Rico, which has already suffered too much from the devastation caused when Hurricane Maria hit nearly two years ago. What is needed is an orderly transition, thorough investigation of any wrongdoing and implementation of a system to ensure that federal aid is effectively dispersed to where it is needed.
One proposal with merit is appointment of a federal coordinator to oversee relief funds, similar to the efforts undertaken in New Orleans and New York following Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. The Federal Oversight and Management Board, as the Washington Post has said, needs to be strengthened so it can continue the work of putting Puerto Rico on sound financial footing, hopefully with the help of a local government that understands its role is to serve the interests of the people of Puerto Rico and not those of a ruling class.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST