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Protesters gather outside governor's mansion in Puerto Rico demanding resignation

Posted at 5:51 AM, Jul 15, 2019

Protesters in Puerto Rico have gathered outside the governor's mansion demanding he resign after last week's corruption arrests and a group chat scandal that led to the resignation of top government officials.

Governor Ricardo Rossello is sticking firm as his administration is embroiled in a scandal that has forced cabinet level officials and close associates out of their roles.

On Saturday, the non-profit journalism group Center of Investigative Journalism published nearly 900 pages of conversations that detail efforts to manipulate public narratives, operations to discredit negative press coverage and criticism of opposition leaders.

The conversations, made through the Telegram app, also contain sexist, homophobic and misogynistic comments from the members of the group, according to the report.

These messages have not been independently authenticated by ABC News.

The very public display of these communications, obtained by the journalism group by an anonymous source, has caused a collapse in the credibility of a government that has struggled to hold onto one. Rossello announced on Saturday that two of the island’s top officials had resigned.

It also follows the federal indictment and arrests on Wednesday of six people, including two former high-ranking government officials, who were charged with conspiracy and other fraud-related charges in connection with millions of dollars in federal Medicaid and education funds.

Rossello has vowed to keep working.

"I was elected by the people and I will continue the mission that was granted to me, now more than ever," he said in a statement on Saturday.

Sunday has been marked by protests and riot police standing off in the streets of old San Juan outside the gates of La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion, with some protesters sleeping outside the doors on Saturday night.

On Sunday evening, Rossello released another statement saying he spent the day in meetings government officials and will spend the week working on "transparency initiatives to combat corruption."

Rossello was the public face of the island during the 2017 landfall of Hurricane Maria that claimed thousands of lives and put on full display the island’s weak infrastructure and crippling debt crisis. He was criticized by many on the island for not pressing the federal government harder in the weeks and months after the storm. Rossello is running for reelection.

Senator Rick Scott, who stood with Rossello in the months following Hurricane Maria, tweeted Sunday night: "Puerto Rican families deserve better. I’ve made ten trips to Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria. I’ve been there for the island and I remain committed to the families of Puerto Rico. But all credibility has been lost. It is clear that the families of Puerto Rico need leadership committed to creating better opportunities on the island."