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Awaiting decision from Rossello, Puerto Ricans are in an ‘anxious place’

Political turmoil continues to consume Puerto Rico. The island’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, was expected to resign Wednesday, although by evening, he had not. Amna Nawaz talks to The Washington Post’s Arelis Hernandez for the latest, including growing crowds of protesters, a media frenzy and a general sense of anxiety as Puerto Ricans await what’s coming next during a period already chaotic.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As all this was going on in Washington, it was a chaotic day in Puerto Rico.

    The island's governor, Ricardo Rossello, had been expected to resign all day amid a political scandal that has enraged Puerto Ricans.

    Amna Nawaz has the latest.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That's right, Judy.

    Well, Arelis Hernandez is a reporter with The Washington Post, where she has reported from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. She is following the all-out political turmoil that has engulfed Governor Ricardo Rossello's administration in recent days.

    She joins me now on the phone from San Juan.

    Arelis, thanks for being with us.

    Let's start with the latest that we know of. A spokesman for the governor came out just a short while ago. Did he have any news on whether Governor Rossello will resign or not?

  • Arelis Hernandez:

    He did not say one way or the other. But it sounds like the governor is going to deliver a message and address the people of Puerto Rico this evening.

    We don't know how. We don't know when. And he didn't take any questions. But, at some point, Rossello will be on television or on Facebook Live to talk to the people of Puerto Rico, presumably because he's going to resign or appoint a secretary of state to succeed him.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And, Arelis, give us a sense of sort of what it's like on the ground right now.

    Obviously, we have been following those protests, historic in their nature and their scope, tens of thousands of people taking to the streets. They're still out there today, many of them gathered outside of the governor's mansion.

    To say that the last day has been chaotic is an understatement, though. Give us a sense of what's happened just over the course of today.

  • Arelis Hernandez:

    A giant understatement, in fact.

    I'm in front of the governor's mansion right now. And you can hear the protesters down the street. They sound like the crowd has gotten much bigger.

    But, basically, this all started around last night, as local media center reporting rumors that the governor's resignation was imminent. And so people have been in a frenzy since then, waiting for this announcement, whether through a video recording or through a press statement of some kind.

    I talked to bunches of people today who are just, like, Puerto Rico is not sleeping right now. Everyone is sort of in this anxious place trying to understand what comes next.

    So we heard 10:00 a.m., we heard noon that this recorded farewell message would be transmitted. But nothing came over.

    Then we heard that the president of the House of Representatives here in Puerto Rico, Carlos Mendez Nunez, called an emergency meeting of the Progressive — New Progressive Party, which is the statehood party that Rossello belongs to.

    And as a result of that particular meeting, people were speculating what was going on. He gave a press conference this afternoon at the capitol building, basically saying that the impeachment inquiry that he had sort of commissioned or a week ago or so had come back with a conclusion and recommendation that there were indeed grounds for impeachment within the evidence from these leaked chat messages.

    So, since then, in that message, Mendez Nunez has also mentioned that he — he was ready to begin impeachment proceedings against Governor Ricardo Rossello, but that he wanted — essentially — he's essentially giving the governor a chance to resign first, so the country, as people call it here, or the island, wouldn't have to go through that process.

    But it sounds like he has the votes to get the two-thirds majority that he would need to start a formal impeachment process.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And we will be following, Arelis Hernandez, your reporting on the ground and see what Governor Rossello has to say in that statement later tonight.

    Thank you so much for joining us — Judy, back to you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And thank you, Amna.

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