Ricardo "Ricky" Antonio Rosselló Nevares[a] // (born March 7, 1979) is a Puerto Rican politician, scientist, businessman, and author. Rosselló has served as the 12th governor of Puerto Rico since 2017. He is the son of former Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro Rosselló.
|12th Governor of Puerto Rico|
|Assumed office |
January 2, 2017
|Preceded by||Alejandro García Padilla|
|Chair of the Puerto Rico New Progressive Party|
|Assumed office |
June 5, 2016
|Preceded by||Pedro Pierluisi|
Ricardo Antonio Rosselló
March 7, 1979
San Juan, Puerto Rico, U.S.
|Political party||New Progressive|
(m. 2008; div. 2010)
Beatriz Areizaga (m. 2012)
|Parents||Maga Nevares (mother)|
Pedro Rosselló (father)
|Education||Massachusetts Institute of|
University of Michigan (MS, PhD)
In 2010, Rosselló founded the political advocacy group Boricua ¡Ahora Es! to advocate for changing the current political status of Puerto Rico. Rosselló supports Puerto Rican statehood. Following several years of political advocacy, Rosselló announced that he would seek the nomination of the New Progressive Party (PNP in Spanish) for Governor of Puerto Rico in 2016. After winning the New Progressive Party primary, Rosselló was elected Governor in the 2016 general election, defeating five other candidates.
Rosselló is also the first governor in the history of Puerto Rico to face calls of resignation by Puerto Ricans after text messages from the Telegram mobile app leaked where the governor was involved in conversations about public policy with comments viewed as homophobic and sexist. In addition, the conversations included insults to other politicians and discussion of strategies to manipulate public opinion.
After the leak, Rosselló released a statement in which he apologized for the comments, saying he had been working 18-hour days and was releasing tensions.
Early life and education
Rosselló was born 1979 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the son of Pedro Rosselló, a doctor, and Maga Nevares. His older brothers are Juan Oscar (b. 1971) and Luis Roberto (b. 1973). Pedro Rosselló served as Governor of Puerto Rico from 1993 to 2001. Rosselló's paternal great-grandfather, Pedro Juan Rosselló Batle, immigrated in 1902 at the age of 23 from Lloseta, Mallorca, Spain.
Rosselló earned a bachelor's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2001 in biomedical engineering and economics. As a college student, he served as president of the Association of Puerto Rican Students at MIT and was the winner of the Dean's Office award for outstanding leadership and community service. Additionally, he was the recipient of the office of minority "academic excellence" award and was the youngest deputy leader in the International Mathematical Olympiads in 2000. As a researcher in college, Rosselló focused on adult stem cell research. He received a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, from the University of Michigan.
After graduation, Rosselló worked as a researcher at Duke University. His work in the stem cell research area has been subject of several awards, such as the Biomaterials Conference STAR Award and has been recognized as a Scholar by the International Society of Neurobiology. His works have been published in several academic journals, including the Communicative & Integrative Biology Journal and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He has presented his research in various international conferences, including the Society for Biomedical Engineering, Orthopedic Research Society, and the Society for Biomaterials, where he was awarded two STAR research awards for outstanding research.
Rosselló is a co-founder of Beijing Prosperous Biopharm, a medical company established in Beijing, China, that has developed various designer drugs aimed at prostate cancer, neurodegeneration problems, diabetes, and HIV.
Rosselló claimed to have developed various drugs, but only later clarified that they were still in the research phase of development.
Early political involvement
Rosselló became involved in politics during the 2008 Puerto Rico gubernatorial election, when his father Pedro Rosselló lost a party primary against the eventual Governor Luis Fortuño. Rosselló was a Hillary Clinton delegate to the 2008 nominating convention and an Obama delegate to the 2012 convention. In 2008, he had a key role in Clinton's get-out-the-vote efforts for the June 1 Puerto Rico presidential primary, appearing in her final TV ad with several Democratic political leaders, including fellow statehooder Kenneth McClintock and commonwealth's Roberto Prats and José A. Hernández Mayoral.
Following this event, Rosselló became a political commentator, writing columns for El Vocero, a daily newspaper published in San Juan, covering politics, science, healthcare and economics topics. Additionally, Rosselló appeared as a regular guest analyst in several political radio talk shows.
He published a book that depicted the accomplishments of his father's administration (1993–2001). All copies of the limited edition print were exhausted in one day. To diffuse the message, he allowed the material to be public domain, and published it on the La Obra de Rosselló website for everyone to read.
In 2012, Rosselló founded Boricua ¡Ahora Es!, a political advocacy group that advocates changing Puerto Rico's current political status. The movement featured a grass-roots educational campaign, suggesting that involvement of the international community may be necessary for the United States government to take action. Boricua ¡Ahora Es! actively campaigned during the 2012 Puerto Rico status referendum.
Rosselló was accused by Bolivian author Lupe Andrade of plagiarizing her column Responsabilidad y democracia ("Accountability and Democracy"). He denied the claim and no legal action followed.
Governor of Puerto Rico
2016 gubernatorial campaign
In 2013, he began organizing a group of collaborators to build what he called Plan para Puerto Rico (Plan for Puerto Rico). This plan would serve as a blueprint to deal with the economic and political problems and Puerto Rico and by being built years before a candidacy, it would represent a more complete and realistic political agenda. In 2014, Rosselló utilized his political platform to perform several protest events against the policies of the incumbent Governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro García Padilla. Some of these events included a march against a proposed Value Added Tax. Rosselló described that he intended to apply a scientific approach to governance. As a part of this, he traveled to other countries and US states to study how they approached various problems in governing, such as Finland, Estonia, and Florida.
On September 19, 2015, he confirmed his intention to run for Governor of Puerto Rico in the 2016 election, and held a campaign rally the next day at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan that surpassed the previous attendance record held by Ricky Martin. At the rally, he endorsed Jenniffer González, a Republican, for Resident Commissioner.
On June 5, 2016, Rosselló won the New Progressive Party primary against incumbent Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, thus becoming the party's candidate for governor and heading to the general election against PPD candidate David Bernier. He made Puerto Rican statehood the central issue of his campaign, and views statehood as the key to economic recovery.
On November 8, 2016, Rosselló defeated five other gubernatorial candidates and was elected Governor of Puerto Rico, receiving 41% of the vote. He was sworn in on January 2, 2017.
Upon his election, he was the second youngest person to become Governor of Puerto Rico. On his first day as governor, Rosselló signed six executive orders. His first executive order was the OE-2017-001, decreeing a state of fiscal emergency. The second order was the OE-2017-002, which creates the COF with the intent of obtaining, maximizing and overseeing more federal funds. The third executive order, OE-2017-003, looks to streamline the permit obtaining process for development of projects that promote a new or improved infrastructure for the lending of services for the citizens and for economic development within Puerto Rico. The fourth executive order, OE-2017-004, creates an interagency group of projects critical for the infrastructure, a collateral effect of the OE 2017-003. The fifth executive order, OE-2017-005, orders the implementation of the method of zero base budget for the preparation of the budget for the fiscal year 2017-2018. The last executive order Rosselló signed on his first day was the OE-2017-006; it decrees a public policy within the Government of Puerto Rico that guarantees equal pay and work for women employees. He also began the process of restructuring Puerto Rico’s national debt.
In 2017 he signed the Permitting Reform Act, streamlining business permitting processes on the island, and he also created the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety. In July 2017, Rosselló signed a bill that enacts regulations and makes the use of marijuana legal for medicinal use. The move goes further than the executive order issued by his predecessor which in Roselló's words, "ignored the legislative process and, following an executive order, promulgated a regulation without due discussion with all sectors and representatives elected by the people." Rosselló has stated that he intends to shrink the size of government, through reducing funding to various parts of the bureaucracy. He also started an effort on labor reform, which was revoked after differences between the governor’s intended version and the version developed by the Financial Oversight and Management Board. Rosselló then tabled a second version of the plan in March 2018.
Rosselló raised the minimum wage in Puerto Rico, and in 2017 signed the Equal Pay Act, pushing for equal pay regardless of gender. In 2018 he signed six laws targeting the reform of the insurance industry, as a response to how insurance companies acted during recent hurricanes. In December 2017, Rosselló signed the "New Government Law", which pretends to consolidate agencies in order to improve efficiency and save capital. Rosselló stated, "the objective is to establish a platform where we can reduce a 131 agencies to 30 or 35 agencies in Puerto Rico."
By the time Rosselló took office, the Puerto Rican government-debt crisis posed serious problems for the government which was saddled with outstanding debt of $70 billion or $12,000 per capita at a time with a 45 percent poverty rate and 14.2% unemployment that is more than twice the mainland U.S. average.
The Commonwealth had been defaulting on many debts, including bonds, since 2015. Rosselló discussed the situation and sketched out his plans in an interview with the international Financial Times in mid January and indicated that he would seek an amicable resolution with creditors and also make fiscal reforms. "There will be real fiscal oversight and we are willing to sit down. We are taking steps to make bold reforms. ... What we are asking for is runway to establish these reforms and have Washington recognise that they have a role to play." He also implemented austerity measures, instructing Puerto Rican government agencies to cut operating expenses by 10 percent and reduce political appointees by 20 percent.
To ensure funds would be available to pay for "essential" government services Rosselló signed a fiscal emergency law on January 28, 2017, that would allow for setting aside funds that might otherwise be required for debt payments.
In late January, the federal control board created under PROMESA gave the government until February 28 to present a fiscal plan - including negotiations with creditors - to solve the problems. It is essential for Puerto Rico to reach restructuring deals to avoid a bankruptcy-like process under PROMESA. A moratorium on lawsuits by debtors was extended to May 31.
Rosselló hired investment expert Rothschild & Co to assist in convincing creditors to take deeper losses on Puerto Rico's debts than they had expected. The company was also exploring the possibility of convincing insurers that had guaranteed some of the bonds against default, to contribute more to the restructuring, according to reliable sources. The governor also planned to negotiate restructuring of about $9 billion of electric utility debt, a plan that could result "in a showdown with insurers". Political observers suggest that his negotiation of the electrical utility debt indicated Rosselló's intention to take a harder line with creditors. Puerto Rico has received authority from the federal government to reduce its debt with legal action and this may make creditors more willing to negotiate instead of becoming embroiled in a long and costly legal battle.
On May 31, Rosselló unveiled his $9.56 billion proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year. The budget prioritizes paying pensions, increasing spending in the island's health system, public safety, and transportation. At the same time, the budget proposes cutting in the departments of education, natural resources, housing, agriculture, correction, and justice. Of the education cuts, it includes over a $200 million cut for Puerto Rico's public university, which has experienced organized student strikes for over two months. The budget would direct $2 billion for the public pension system of Puerto Rico that is underfunded by about $50 billion. To balance this increase, the budget eliminates millions of dollars in annual subsidies to 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico, forcing the mayors to find funding in other areas. In addition, the budget focuses payments for the debt services and the federal control board. Rosselló also announced a tax reform which will produce tax breaks for the working class and retirees.
A tax reform bill was presented by the governor in December 2018, which included a work tax credit of between $300 and $2000 to each taxpayer and reduced the corporate tax rate from 39% to 37.5%. Prior to this, Rosselló reduced the sales tax from 11.5% to 7% for restaurant prepared foods. During 2018, Rosselló announced that Puerto Rico had reached its lowest unemployment rate in the region history, at 9.3%. In June 2018, he began the process of privatizing the island’s energy infrastructure, and in November 2018, he pledged for Puerto Rico to switch entirely to renewable energy by 2050. In 2018 Rosselló also started InvestPR, a program intended to attract business investment to Puerto Rico, put in place by Law 13-2017; in addition to creating the Destination Marketing Organization, which encourages tourists to visit the island, enacted in 2017 by Law 17-2017.
On February 5, 2018, Rosselló announced a broad education reform. The reform aim to incorporate school vouchers and charter schools into the bankrupt U.S. territory's education system. It was signed into law in March 2018.
In 2019, Rosselló became the president of the Council of State Governments.
Rosselló's political stances on social issues tend to be centrist. For instance, he supports legalization of medical marijuana but opposes its legalization for recreational use. In terms of civil rights, Rosselló opposes same-sex marriage but respects the U.S. Supreme Court decision that established it.
Views on statehood
Rosselló was strongly in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico to help develop the economy and to help Puerto Rico's 500-year old colonial dilemma. "Colonialism is not an option .... It's a civil rights issue ... The time will come in which the United States has to respond to the demands of 3.5 million citizens seeking an absolute democracy" he stated. In January 2017 he announced that Puerto Ricans will be given an opportunity to vote in the fifth plebiscite on June 11, 2017, with three options: "Statehood", "Current Territorial Status" and "Independence/Free Association". It initially did not offer the second option, which was added at the request of United States Department of Justice (US-DOJ). Around the same time, Puerto Rico's legislators are expected to vote on a bill that would allow the Governor to draft a state constitution and hold elections to choose senators and representatives to the U.S. Congress.
On June 11, 2017, the results of the plebiscite were 97% in favor of statehood. However, the plebiscite results have been marred and been called into question. Due to months of calls for boycotting by his political rivals and confusion, the turnout for the plebiscite was 23% of the eligible electorate. Rosselló plans on creating a commission that will ensure the validity of the referendum in Congress. He has stated that he does not believe that Puerto Rico yet has the political infrastructure to pursue statehood, and that he intends to develop it.
On July 8, 2019, screenshots of a group chat on the Telegram messaging service, which the governor belonged to, leaked. The authenticity of these screenshots was confirmed the following day by Chief of Staff Ricardo Llerandi, who was, along with several other high-ranking government officials, also a member of the chat. Some on Twitter have dubbed the scandal Telegramgate.
Rosselló interrupted his vacation in France to fly to Puerto Rico and attend a press conference where he took responsibility for the way he spoke in the chat, and said that he would not resign as Governor of Puerto Rico. Rosselló said that he did not know who leaked the chat or when it was deleted. On July 13, 2019, the entirety of the chat was made public by local news agency Centro de Periodismo Investigativo.
The screenshots, were reported by El Nuevo Día as containing vulgar and homophobic comments and attacks towards other politicians, such as former Speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito, as well as local journalists and celebrities. Rosselló described Mark-Viverito as a puta, Spanish for whore; Mark-Viverito responded to this soon afterwards on her Twitter account, condemning his use of the word through a written statement. Several members of the New Progressive Party also condemned the governor's expressions. The transcript, released July 13, shows government officials, including Rosselló, conspiring to operate an internet troll network to discredit press, journalists and opposition politicians, according to several news sources. In one message, Rosselló jokes about shooting Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan. Allegedly, Rosselló improperly conducted public business on the chat, even though one of the participants—Elías Sánchez—no longer worked directly with Rosselló. The chat has been called out as giving Sánchez an unfair advantage in his business dealings, as he was privy to internal government affairs while working for Wolf Popper, a company that does business with government agencies.
Democratic congressman Raúl Grijalva, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees Puerto Rico, called for the governor to resign amid this and another ongoing controversy involving federal indictments against several former members of Rosselló's cabinet.
As more politicians have withdrawn their support, thousands of Puerto Ricans have gathered worldwide asking Rosselló to resign as governor, while demonstrators blocked the streets of Old San Juan near La Fortaleza for several consecutive days. Puerto Rico’s sole representative in the U.S. Congress, Jenniffer González, said that she believes Rosselló should not seek re-election the following year as a result of the incident. Thomas Rivera Schatz, President of the Puerto Rican Senate, took to Twitter and Facebook to call upon Rosselló and every government official included in the chat to resign.
Rosselló previously married Natasha Marie Cervi in 2008. The marriage ended in divorce in 2010. He was also involved in a fatal car accident which caused much controversy in Puerto Rico.
|Ancestors of Ricky Rosselló|
- Rosselló, RA; Chen, C-C; Dai, R; Howard, JT; Hochgeschwender, U; Jarvis, ED (2013). "Mammalian genes induce partially reprogrammed pluripotent stem cells in non-mammalian vertebrate and invertebrate species". eLife. 2: e00036. doi:10.7554/eLife.00036. PMC 3762186. PMID 24015354.
- Rosselló, RA; Kohn, DH (2010). "Cell communication and tissue engineering". Communicative & integrative biology. 3 (1): 53–56. doi:10.4161/cib.3.1.9863. PMC 2881242. PMID 20539784.
- Rosselló, RA; Wang, Z; Kizana, E; Krebsbach, PH; Kohn, DH (2009). "Connexin 43 as a signaling platform for increasing the volume and spatial distribution of regenerated tissue". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 (32): 13219–24. doi:10.1073/pnas.0902622106. PMC 2726403. PMID 19628695.
- Rosselló, RA; Kohn, DH (2009). "Gap junction intercellular communication: A review of a potential platform to modulate craniofacial tissue engineering". Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part B: Applied Biomaterials. 88B (2): 509–518. doi:10.1002/jbm.b.31127. PMC 2744807. PMID 18481782.
- Hansma, P; Turner, P; Drake, B; Yurtsev, E; Proctor, A; Mathews, P; Lelujian, J; Randall, C; Adams, J; Jungmann, R; Garza-De-Leon, F; Fantner, G; Mkrtchyan, H; Pontin, M; Weaver, A; Brown, MB; Sahar, N; Rosselló, R; Kohn, DH (2008). "The bone diagnostic instrument II: Indentation distance increase". Review of Scientific Instruments. 79 (6): 064303. doi:10.1063/1.2937199. PMC 2678790. PMID 18601422.
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The bipartisan, seven-member oversight board was created under the federal Puerto Rico rescue law known as PROMESA, passed by the U.S. Congress last year. It is charged with helping the island manage its finances and navigate its way out of the economic jam, including by negotiating restructuring deals with creditors.
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|Party political offices|
| Chair of the Puerto Rico New Progressive Party
| New Progressive nominee for Governor of Puerto Rico
Alejandro García Padilla
| Governor of Puerto Rico
January 2, 2017–present