On Friday, as reported by the Associated Press, Rolando Crespo, the House Majority Whip of the Puerto Rican House of Representatives, had tested positive for cocaine use during a mandatory drug test of the island’s legislators. Today, after facing pressure from his political allies, Crespo announced his resignation.
El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s top newspaper, reported an article in Spanish at 3:34 PM EST (4:34 PM local island item) that chronicles Crespo’s resignation. Crespo met with Jenniffer González, Puerto Rico’s Speaker of the House, and offered his resignation. He also told González that he would go into a drug rehabilitation program.
“[Speaker González] who has given me advice. Over the weekend, I went through a process of reflection,” said Crespo in Spanish today. “I talked with my family, with God and with myself. Today, I announcement my resignation.”
Crespo, as well as González, are members of the island pro-statehood party the New Progressive Party (PNP), which is also the party of Governor Luis Fortuño. Fortuño, who won the election in 2008, had included a “zero-corrpution” government on his formal platform, and promised that any political leader—no matter what party—would need to follow all ethical and legal requirements. Fortuño and González were both very vocal in tell Crespo that he had to resign from his post. Initially, González had announced that a formal ethics hearing would be held in the House for Crespo, but the pressure for his resignation had already mounted.
On Friday, the AP reported the following:
“I accept that I failed. I am human. I ask the citizens of Puerto Rico for forgiveness. … I will submit to all processes to rectify this ignorance,” Crespo was quoted as saying in the statement.
Gonzalez said Crespo had denied to her that he used drugs. She said he had stepped down as House majority whip.
Shortly after Gonzalez’s announcement, Gov. Luis Fortuño said he was indignant about the results and urged Crespo to resign immediately instead of waiting for a decision from the ethics committee.
“This is an uncomfortable and unacceptable situation for both the legislature and for the citizens of Puerto Rico,” Fortuño said in a statement.
Today, Fortuño commented from the National Governors Association meeting in Washington:
“I spoke with [Crespo] this morning. He knows that within minutes of my finding out about the revelations, I recommended and urged him to resign,” Fortuño said in Spanish. “He must focus on whatever personal issues that would arise from this situation.”
Fortuño also said that Crespo had assured him that Crespo would not seek a canadidacy to the Puerto Rican Legislature in 2012.
It has been a tumultuous month for the Puerto Rican Governor, the first Republican to be elected on the island since 1969. His remarks at February’s 2011 CPAC (The American Conservative Union) conference claimed that most Puerto Ricans are conservative in nature and that the Republican party can successfully reach out to voters on the island, as his victory proved. (Note: Puerto Ricans on the island cannot vote in national elections.) In the same speech, Fortuño urged Republican lawmakers to take advantage of the new House majorities on the mainland during the budget debate and “make the tough cuts early and stick to them with courage”.
Fortuño, who has been credited for improving the island’s debt issues and establishing the island’s highest bond rating since 1976, is still facing tough criticism for his handling of the recent strikes at the University of Puerto Rico. This criticism reached a crescendo when Illinois Democrat Luis Guitérrez publicly railed against the Fortuño government for violating basic American rights and suggesting that Fortuño’s tactics are similar to that our Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. In addition, The Puerto Rico Democracy Act, a referendum that would allow for Puerto Ricans to vote on their political status, is stuck in the Senate and Fortuño is facing pressure from his own party to ensure that the Act is passed to Puerto Ricans can vote on their political future.
The Crespo resignation has dealt a blow to the Fortuño administration, and it is no surprise that the governor wanted to distance himself from Crespo as quickly as possible.