The once-untouchable Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló: Can he survive?

Embattled Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló clung to power Tuesday as his political crisis deepened, massive protests continued unabated and calls for his ouster intensified.

A judge issued search warrants early Tuesday for the cellphones of government officials tied to a myriad of recently leaked and very vulgar online chats between Rosselló and some of the top male leaders of his government. Every day brings more resignations and hints that criminal charges could follow.

Tens of thousands of protesters shut down streets in the Hato Rey section of San Juan on Monday to demand Rosselló’s resignation. Smaller but equally adamant rallies are taking place daily, and organizers are considering another massive protest for Saturday.

All they want is Rosselló gone.

“His political base is dwindling to almost nonexistent,” Carlos A. Suárez Carrasquillo, a Puerto Rico native who lectures on Latin American at the University of Florida, told USA TODAY. “But if anyone can survive this, it is him.”

Police clash with protesters as they demonstrate against Gov. Ricardo Rossello on July 22, 2019, in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

Rosselló resigned the presidency of his political party and announced he won’t run in next year’s gubernatorial election. But he also refused to resign as governor, saying he is focused on completing the island’s recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Maria and on battling political corruption.

“The people are talking and I have to listen,” Rosselló said in a brief statement Tuesday. “These have been moments of total reflection and of making decisions that are executed based on the concerns of the people of Puerto Rico and their best interests.”

The controversy began less than two weeks ago with the arrest of Rosselló associates on corruption charges. The next day, the crass text conversations began emerging. One female political foe was described as a “whore.”

Popular San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and beloved singer Ricky Martin were targeted. Insensitive comments were made against women, disabled people and even those suffering after Maria.

Rosselló, who has apologized, said Tuesday that he will only address government related issues “as promised, and as expected by the people.”

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