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A woman holds a sign that reads 'Wanda and Schatz. Now it's your thing' during a rally to celebrate the resignation of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on July 25, 2019.MARCO BELLO/Reuters

Puerto Ricans danced among the brightly coloured houses of San Juan on Thursday after Governor Ricardo Rossello capitulated to 12 days of protests and resigned, but many in the crowd warned they would reject the person in line to succeed him.

The first-term governor told the island just before midnight that he would resign on Aug. 2 in the face of public anger over profane chat messages and a corruption scandal that drew as many as 500,000 protesters onto the island capital’s streets.

Protesters were not enthused over Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez being next in line to succeed Mr. Rossello, based on current Cabinet vacancies: One waved a sign reading “Wanda, we don’t want you either” and another shouted, “Wanda, you’re next!”

Leaders of Mr. Rossello’s pro-statehood party were scrambling on Thursday to negotiate another successor, according to three sources familiar with the talks who requested anonymity to discuss them.

During Mr. Rossello’s term as governor, Puerto Rico endured back-to-back 2017 hurricanes that killed some 3,000 people and wreaked widespread destruction months after the U.S. territory filed for bankruptcy to restructure $120-billion of debt and pension obligations.

“I’m really, really, really, really happy, but I know we need to stay right here, screaming,” Julie Rivera, 21, said after Mr. Rossello said he would step down. She added that she believed his designated successor, 59-year-old Ms. Vazquez, was too close to the disgraced governor.

Ms. Vazquez rejected charges of improper past business ties levelled in Puerto Rican media.

“During our career in public service, we’ve showed that we’ve worked in a righteous and honest manner to benefit the public,” Ms. Vazquez told Puerto Rican media.

Ms. Vazquez was unlikely to actually become governor, said one of the three sources, a person familiar with Mr. Rossello’s administration.

“Whoever it is, it can’t be someone in Ricky’s inner circle or close to his government,” that person said. “It has to be someone from the outside.”

That source, as well as a person familiar with Puerto Rico-related policy-making at the federal government and Puerto Rico Representative Luis Vega Ramos, a political rival of Mr. Rossello, all said a top candidate for the job is Pedro Pierluisi, the island’s former representative in the U.S. Congress.

Mr. Pierluisi, a member of Mr. Rossello’s party, ran against him in the gubernatorial election in 2016, losing in a primary.

He could be positioned to become the next governor if he is nominated and confirmed as secretary of state before Mr. Rossello resigns. That post, currently vacant, is first in line to succeed the governor.

Mr. Pierluisi did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Ms. Vazquez’s spokesman, Kelvin Carrasco, acknowledged that a new secretary of state would take succession precedence if one were named.

U.S. Representative Jenniffer Gonzalez, the island’s non-voting delegate to Congress, said she believed Ms. Vazquez would be the island’s next governor.

“The new governor, Wanda Vazquez, has all my support,” said Ms. Gonzalez, a Republican and member of Mr. Rossello’s party.

Multiple Democratic members of the U.S. Congress urged their colleagues not to allow the political turmoil to limit federal funding for the disaster-rocked island or to block a plan to increase federal Medicare funding for the island by US$12-billion over four years.

Weary of crisis and a decade-long recession, Puerto Ricans were angered when U.S. authorities on July 10 accused two former Rossello administration officials of pocketing federal money through government contracts.

The final straw for many came on July 13, when Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published 889 pages of chat messages between Mr. Rossello and 11 close allies.

The group made profane and sometimes violent statements about female political opponents, gay singer Ricky Martin and ordinary Puerto Ricans in messages between November, 2018, and January, 2019.

Mr. Rossello also faced the threats of an investigation by the island’s Department of Justice and impeachment by its legislature.

“To continue in this position would make it difficult for the success that I have achieved to endure,” Mr. Rossello said in an overnight address, listing accomplishments in office that ranged from creating new industries to promoting equal pay for women.

In a sign that investors saw Mr. Rossello’s departure as a positive, some of Puerto Rico’s defaulted general obligation bonds traded at their highest prices in three months in the U.S. Municipal Market.

“This kind of helps to eliminate some of the rampant corruption that plagued the commonwealth for decades,” said Shaun Burgess, a portfolio manager at Cumberland Advisors, which holds about US$145-million of insured Puerto Rico bonds.

Not all Puerto Ricans were delighted at Mr. Rossello’s fall.

“He’s taking the fall for a bunch of past governors that put us in this position,” said Ricky Shub, 33. While Mr. Shub agreed that it was time for Mr. Rossello to go, he added, “everyone here is right to do what they’re doing, but they should have done it 20 years ago.”

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