San Juan: Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossell announced on Saturday that his chief financial officer and secretary of state will step down following their participation in a private chat that used profanities to describe an ex-New York City government official and a federal control board overseeing the island's finances.
The US territory's CFO Christian Sobrino, who is also the governor's representative to the federal control board, announced he was stepping down via Twitter on Saturday.
Its Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marn also offered his resignation. Rossell later released a statement saying he would let go members of his administration who participated in the chat on a messaging system used by government officials.
The release of the chat's contents in local media had led to calls for the governor's resignation.
Rossell apologized for the comments late on Thursday, saying he'd been working 18-hour days and releasing tensions when he called former New York City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito the Spanish word for "whore" and in English told the oversight board to "go f--- yourself" followed by a string of emojis with the middle finger raised.
"Aware that the current environment cannot be maintained, I have communicated to all the other public officials involved in the chat that I will have to dispense with their services and/or their advice," he said in the statement.
He said that he would ask Ricardo Llerandi to remain as Puerto Rico's secretary of the interior and Anthony Maceira to stay as secretary of Public Affairs.
"This is a very painful situation for me, as Governor, as a human being and as a Puerto Rican," Rossell said.
"But I recognize there is no other way out and there is no worthwhile forgiveness on my part that does not include corrections and clear signs of intent to change."
The comments had drawn the ire of many Puerto Ricans who said they were ashamed of his language and of how this might affect the reputation of the US territory, which had already come under scrutiny earlier this week with the arrests of former government officials including the island's education secretary.
Rossell said late Thursday that he had not yet spoken to Mark-Viverito, who posted a lengthy statement on Twitter that read in part, "A person who uses that language against a woman, whether a public figure or not, should not govern Puerto Rico ...this type of behavior is completely unacceptable."
In the chat, Rossell wrote that he was upset Mark-Viverito had criticized Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, for supporting statehood for Puerto Rico.
Those who participated in the chat included Llerandi, Sobrino, former public affairs secretary Ramn Rosario and Rossello, who has said he doesn't know who leaked excerpts of the private chat. Rossell has said he will not resign.