Puerto Rico governor clings to power amid threat of impeachment | World news

The fate of Puerto Rico’s besieged governor, Ricardo Rosselló, hung in the balance on Wednesday evening as the US territory’s legislature threatened impeachment proceedings if the governor did not resign.

Mass demonstrations on the island are approaching their second week, as local press reports on Tuesday evening indicated the governor would resign by midday on Wednesday.

But the governor’s resignation did not manifest by the afternoon and the administration later issued a release stating Rosselló was “in a process of reflection and of listening to the people”.

Ricardo Rosselló, seen on 16 July.

Ricardo Rosselló, seen on 16 July. Photograph: Carlos Giusti/AP

During chaotic scenes at the governor’s residence in San Juan, reporters were held for hours waiting for an announcement, only to be told by the governor’s director of public affairs that Rosselló would issue an address later in the evening.

Rosselló has been largely abandoned by his own party, the ruling New Progressive party, in the wake of a scandal involving hundreds of pages of leaked text messages shared between the governor and 11 members of his inner circle. The messages contained a slew of homophobic and misogynistic messages as a well as a joke about deaths during Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017.

On Wednesday, local reports indicated that the president of Puerto Rico’s house of representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, would convene a special session of the island’s legislature on Thursday afternoon to initiate impeachment proceedings against the governor.

“The impeachment process has started,” said Mendez, who is a member of Rosselló’s party in an afternoon press conference.

The news followed an announcement that a group of attorneys commissioned by the legislature to examine Rosselló’s conduct had unanimously found five offenses, some related to embezzlement, that constituted grounds for impeachment.

Puerto Rico police fire teargas at protesters demanding governor’s resignation – video

Méndez said that even if the governor resigned, the lawyers’ findings would still be passed to relevant authorities.

Thousands of protesters had again assembled outside the governor’s residence in San Juan on Wednesday evening as police stood behind makeshift barriers made of concrete.

The text message scandal engulfing the governor has drawn bipartisan outrage on the island and led to hundreds of thousands marching on the streets. On Monday, a general strike on the island led to the shutdown of a major highway in San Juan.

The governor has attempted to cling to power throughout the demonstrations, which have often been dispersed by police with teargas and rubber bullets, but his position has looked increasingly untenable in recent days.

The Rosselló administration has been plagued by corruption and allegations of mismanagement during the response to Hurricane Maria. Shortly before the messages were leaked, the FBI arrested five former government officials and contractors accused of misappropriating millions of dollars in federal funds given to the island after Maria.

Although the Trump administration has stopped short of calling for Rosselló’s resignation, the president has frequently criticised the governor and lied about the federal government’s checkered record in assisting after the hurricane.

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