Political Overhaul in Puerto Rico Continues
Puerto Ricans are on the path of political recovery following former Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation, effective August 2. Following the island’s largest protest in recent history over his scandal involving leaked private chats, corruption investigations, and arrests, Rosselló announced his intention to leave office on a recorded video he published on Facebook, according to NBC News. There, he touted self-proclaimed accomplishments from his tenure, including stories of his efforts to fight corruption and bridge gaps between communities.
“My only North Star has been the well-being of my island,” Rosselló said. “What I wish most is peace and progress for my people.”
Rosselló was the first U.S. commonwealth governor to resign in history. The news came after three attorneys to Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives unanimously found five offenses that acted as grounds for impeachment. Following his announcement to resign, crowds of demonstrators chanted “¡Ricky, te botamos!” (“Ricky, we threw you out!”) according to NBC News.
Pedro Pierluisi, a lobbyist and attorney, was sworn in as governor “in accordance with Section 7 and Article 4 of Puerto Rico’s Constitution” on August 2 in San Juan, the same day as Rosselló’s effective resignation. Pierluisi was not well-received by the public, with some calling his interpretation of Puerto Rican law “an atrocious abduction of Puerto Rico’s current constitution.” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who intends to run for governor in the 2020 elections, filed an appeal to challenge the legitimacy of Pierluisi’s succession to the governor.
Less than a week after the high court ruled Pedro Pierluisi’s rise to power as unconstitutional, Wanda Vázquez Garced became the third governor of Puerto Rico. She was sworn in shortly after Pierluisi relinquished governorship, according to the Wall Street Journal. Garced has been acting Governor of Puerto Rico since August 7.
Unfortunately, all is apparently not well with Garced’s administration either, because, by August 22, Puerto Ricans were holding town assemblies to figure out the steps to elect yet another governor. Adrian Florido, an NPR correspondent to Puerto Rico, said, “These assemblies… what do the citizens want? How can we improve the conditions in which Puerto Ricans are living?” According to Florido, the responses ranged from minimalistic to a complete government turnover. Calls for major political overhaul and focus on local unrepaired damage from 2017’s Hurricane Maria were amongst the most common demands.
With continued discontent among the Puerto Rican people, one can only be hopeful that Garced can succeed where Rosselló did not and remain where Pierluisi could not. What is evident is the fact that Puerto Rico’s present situation is extremely delicate. Whoever ultimately ends up at the head of the Puerto Rican government has extremely important and timely decisions to make. These decisions may mean the difference between conflict and recovery in the months ahead.