By Sean Jackson
On August 7th, Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez was sworn in as governor of Puerto Rico, making her the third person this week to have occupied the post. Vázquez was sworn in only hours after the U.S. territory’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously that it was unconstitutional for former Governor Ricardo Rosselló to name his successor, Pedro Pierluisi, who was nominated Secretary of State only an hour prior.
Puerto Rico’s constitution states that the island’s secretary of state is next in line for succession, but the legal dispute came when questions arose about whether or not Pierluisi was the legitimate secretary of state.
Pierluisi spoke before the Supreme Court’s ruling, stating, “I wish the Honorable Wanda Vázquez the greatest success as Governor of Puerto Rico. I will always be in the best disposition to advance any initiative that seeks to improve the quality of life of our people and to encourage the Federal Government to fulfill its responsibility to provide the support that Puerto Rico needs for its recovery and reconstruction.”
“It is unconstitutional to allow a Secretary of State to become Governor without having been confirmed by both legislative chambers,”a Supreme Court press release stated.
While Pierluisi was confirmed as secretary by the House of Representatives in Puerto Rico only an hour before taking the oath as Governor, the Senate for the island never had the opportunity to vote for the nomination.
Former Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s administration had been at the center of a large controversy surrounding the leak of private chat logs between himself and close advisers. The chat logs, released by Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, outline a variety of improprieties, such as profane messages between the governor and eleven men which locals consider insensitive, as well as finely established connections between the governor and special interest groups.
The chat logs sparked weeks of protests in the streets of Puerto Rico, and it seems as though this next pick in the line of succession may continue to foster such sentiment.
Vázquez is still seen by locals as a loyal inner circle member of Rosselló, which prompted protesters to begin to gather in front of the Governor’s mansion directly after she was sworn in. There are also allegations that she failed to pursue corruption probes against members of her own party, the New Progressive Party.
The hashtag #WandaRenuncia, or #WandaResign is already trending on twitter.
After being sworn in at Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court in San Juan, Vázquez said, “I arrive at this position by constitutional provision and by opinion of law, but with the greatest respect and determination to serve my people and to push Puerto Rico forward. It was with great humility and commitment that I assume the position to direct the destinies of our country, with responsibility and delivery.”
While a new Governor has taken the mantle, there is still uncertainty about the leadership direction among many Puerto Ricans. Chief Justice Maite D. Ornoz Rodriguez spoke about the past weeks, saying, “The summer of 2019 will be remembered as an unprecedented moment in which Puerto Ricans – of all ages, ideologies, backgrounds, and creeds – threw themselves into the street to demand more for their government.”