Puerto Rico governor in "Rickyleaks" scandal expected to quit Wednesday

SAN JUAN, July 24 (Reuters) - Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló was expected to step down on Wednesday after almost two weeks of protests against his administration that were sparked by the publication of offensive chat messages with aides, several of whom have already quit.

Rosselló had made no announcement by early Wednesday, but major local media were reporting his resignation was imminent.

Protesters had cheered those reports late on Tuesday but warned that his departure would not end the demonstrations now entering their 12th day.

If he does step down his replacement as the Caribbean island's leader would likely be Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez, whom protesters reject because of her ties to Rosselló.

The governor's chief-of-staff resigned on Tuesday as prosecutors investigated the scandal.

After some protesters threw bottles and police in riot gear used tear gas to disperse crowds on Monday, protests outside the governor's mansion were comparatively tame on Tuesday and early Wednesday, limited to chanting and cheering.

The demonstrations, which drew an estimated 500,000 people to the streets of San Juan on Monday, continue to rock the U.S. territory as it struggles to recover from a hurricane two years ago that killed some 3,000 people. The island was already bankrupt.

The protests were spurred by the publication on July 13 of chat messages in which Gov. Rosselló and aides used profane language to describe female politicians and openly-gay Puerto Ricans like Ricky Martin.

They unleashed simmering resentment over his handling of 2017's Hurricane Maria, alleged corruption in his administration and the island's bankruptcy process.

A string of Rosselló's closest aides have stepped down over the scandal. His chief of staff Ricardo Llerandi was the latest to hand in his resignation on Tuesday, citing concerns for the safety of his family after threats.

Puerto Rican officials on Tuesday executed search warrants for the mobile phones of Rosselló and 11 top officials involved in the leaked Telegram message group chats.

Puerto Rico's Justice Department first requested the phones last Wednesday as part of its investigation into the chat scandal, nicknamed "Rickyleaks."

Only Llerandi has so far said publicly he has handed in his phone.

Mariana Cobian, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to say whether the governor had surrendered his mobile.

Related: 10 things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

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10 things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico
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10 things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Go snorkeling 

Take advantage of San Juan's clear waters by putting on a snorkel and swimming with the wildlife. You can go for a snorkel and picnic cruise (tropical drinks included), swim with sea turtles or take a catamaran to a deserted island. And if you're up for it, go for a sunset swim in one of the bioluminescent bays

Recommended excursions:

San Juan Snorkel and Picnic Cruise

Paradise Scuba & Snorkeling Center

Vieques Snorkeling Tour from San Juan

Deserted Island Catamaran Day Sail from Fajardo

Visit the rainforest

The El Yunque National Forest is the only tropical rain forest in the US national forest system. Although it's small by comparison (29,000 acres), it is one of the most biologically diverse and is home to hundreds of unique animal and plant species, like the endangered Puerto Rican parrot. 

Although many trails and facilities in the forest are closed off for repairs (especially post-Hurricane Maria), there are still plenty of places to visit and experience the forest.

Recommended excursions:

El Yunque Rainforest Half-Day Trip from San Juan

Big Waterfall Rainforest Rappelling Off The Beaten Path Adventure

Private Full Day Archaeological and Rainforest Tour in San Juan

Full-Day Rainforest and Waterfall Adventure from San Juan

Go to Perla 

Puerto Rican food is influenced by a combination of US, Spanish, African and native Taínos flavors. While there are more than enough great restaurants in San Juan, one with a view that's as good as its menu is Perla (pictured). Perla is located at the La Concha Renaissance Hotel and sits in a conch-shell like exterior that was designed by an Italian architect in 1958. The "shell" sits on an infinity pool that overlooks the ocean.

Perla's menu is appropriately seafood-focused with dishes like Baked Caribbean Lobster with Lobster Beurre Blanc and Seafood Ceviche and is rounded out with steak, chicken and an impressive dessert list. Just think of all the pics you'll get for your Instagram...

Some of our other favorite places to eat include:

Lote 23

Oceano

El Burén de LULA

Lechonera El Rancho de Apa

Flavors of San Juan Food & Culture Tour 

Puerto Rico Craft Cocktail Walk

Visit Old San Juan

Think of Old San Juan as the downtown area. There are no beaches or resort hotels, but it boasts bright colorful architecture, bustling streets and a rich history. 

Visit and see the old home of Ponce de León, check out the kiosks along Pase la Princesa, go shopping, dine on Fortaleza Street (tons of good spots to eat!) and stop by to see the forts (more on that next). 

Recommended excursions:

Old San Juan Deluxe Walking Tour

Old San Juan Walking Tour

Old San Juan Segway Tour

Old San Juan Food Tour

Visit Castillo San Felipe del Morro

The castle, also known as El Morro, sits on the water at the entrance to the San Juan Harbor. The building of it began in the 1400s by the Spaniards and over the years was rebuilt and modified — it's over 475 years old! Today, the fort is a historical landmark and used for entertainment. 

El Morro is part of the National Park Service and upon entering, you'll be asked to pay an entrance fee. You'll receive a map that can guide you around the "park" or you can take any of the guided tours offered there. Check out more on visiting here

Another recommended excursion:

1-Hour Guided El Morro Jetski Tour

Shop for jewelry

Shopping for jewelry in San Juan is great because you can get quality high-end items at lower prices than you might find on the US mainland. And, there are so many jewelry stores! (In addition to diamonds, make sure you check out the local spots for handmade accessories, too.)

Recommended shops:

Portofino 

Argenta (in Old San Juan)

Bared (in Old San Juan)

Club Jibarito

Visit the Bacardi Rum Distillery

Take a ferry from Old San Juan and visit Casa Bacardi. While Bacardi rum was founded in 1862 in Cuba, its Puerto Rican distillery opened in 1936. Today, you can visit and go on a historical tour, a rum tasting tour, take a mixology class or even bottle your very own Bacardi — each experience comes with a strong drink or two (or more!). 

Plan your visit

Have a beach day

There are plenty of beaches in San Juan, so take a day to relax and enjoy the clear waters and sand. 

Recommended beaches:

Most pristine: Flamenco Beach

Good for snorkeling & scuba: El Escambron

Closest to resorts: Playa Condado

Best for playing sand sports: Ocean Park Beach 

Bioluminescent & wild horses: Mosquito Bay, Vieques 

Most secluded: Playa Borinquen

Explore a bioluminescent bay

The water of a bioluminescent bay glows in a blue-green color. The glow is created by teeny tiny micro-organisms called flagellates; they make their food through photosynthesis, which creates the glow. It's a sight to see, and a rare one — there are very few bioluminescent waters in the world. Luckily, you can find one near San Juan!

Recommended excursions:

La Parguera Bio Bay Boat Tour from San Juan

Bioluminescent Bay Kayak Adventure Tour from San Juan

Bioluminescent Bay Glass Bottom Kayak Tour from San Juan

Best Bioluminescent Bay Boat VIP Tour from San Juan (all inclusive)
 

Go on an adventure

There are plenty of ways to explore around San Juan that don't include walking or riding in a car. Take an ATV through the countryside, a jet ski around the islands, zipline through the rainforest or hike through the caves. There's a lot to see and not everywhere is accessible via automobile. 

Recommended excursions:

Hacienda ATV Adventure

Adventure Lovers Tour in Puerto Rico: Full-Day Zipline River Caving and Hike

Jet Ski Adventure from Fajardo

4-Hour Jet Ski Tour at Boqueron Beach

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CALLS FOR RESIGNATION

A first-term governor in his first elected office, 40-year-old Rosselló has for almost two weeks resisted calls to step down as leader of the U.S. territory and its 3.2 million residents, though he has vowed not to seek re-election in 2020.

"The people are talking and I have to listen," Rosselló said in a statement on Tuesday. He has apologized several times for the chats and asked Puerto Ricans to give him another chance.

But the island's leading newspaper, prominent Democratic officials and Republican President Donald Trump have all called on Rosselló to step down.

(Reporting by Marco Bello and Nick Brown in San Juan; additional reporting by Luis Valentin Ortiz in San Juan, Zachary Fagenson in Miami, Karen Pierog in Chicago and Rich McKay in Atlanta; writing by Scott Malone and Andrew Hay; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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