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Puerto Rico Is Facing Another Crisis: No One Knows Who's Going to Be Governor Next

“I have no interest in occupying the post of governor,” next-in-line Wanda Vázquez tweeted.

by Alex Lubben
Jul 29 2019, 4:58pm

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Facing growing scrutiny and more protests, the woman next in line for Ricardo Rosselló’s position as governor of Puerto Rico doesn’t want the job.

Rosselló announced his resignation last week after nearly two straight weeks of protests outside the governor’s mansion and in the streets of San Juan. As soon as he announced that he’d step down Aug. 2, protesters were already demanding that his presumed successor, Wanda Vázquez, the Justice Secretary, also resign. On Sunday, Vázquez announced she doesn’t want the governor’s job.

“I have no interest in occupying the post of governor,” Vázquez tweeted on Sunday. “I hope the governor chooses and submits a candidate for the post of secretary of state before Aug. 2 and I’ve told him so.”

READ: Puerto Ricans celebrated Gov. Rosselló's resignation with a massive street party

The secretary of state would normally be next in line to take over the governorship — but Puerto Rico doesn’t have one right now. The last person to have the job, Luis Rivera Marín, resigned earlier this month: He’d participated in a trove of leaked homophobic and sexist messages. In one exchange, one official joked about feeding the dead after Hurricane Maria to crows.

Now, no one knows who’ll be in the governor’s mansion in Puerto Rico after Rosselló resigns. If the island’s House and Senate don’t manage to confirm a new secretary of state this week, the job would, per the Puerto Rican constitution, go to the treasury secretary, Francisco Parés. But, at 31 years old, he’s too young to be governor; the constitution requires the governor to be at least 35.

This weekend, Puerto Rican rapper Residente also called for more protests: Demonstrators plan to gather outside the Department of Justice Monday afternoon.

READ: Puerto Ricans are done protesting. "La junta" is why.

“The protests aren’t just about a change in terms of who’s in the governor’s mansion,” Yarimar Bonilla, a political anthropology professor at Hunter College who’s participated in the protests in Puerto Rico told VICE News last week. “It’s also going to be a huge change in terms of people’s political empowerment and the creation of an entirely new political agenda for Puerto Rico.”

Vázquez' scandals

Vázquez’ tenure as secretary of justice has been fraught: She was the first person in that role to face criminal charges for allegedly improperly intervening on behalf of her daughter and son-in-law in a case involving the theft of government property, according to El Nuevo Dia. The charges were ultimately dropped.

More recently, she has come under scrutiny for declining to investigate the alleged mismanagement of Hurricane Maria relief funds. Womens’ rights advocates on the island have also criticized her for failing to address a spike in gender-based violence.

Vázquez had said on Friday that her character had been attacked and that the Department of Justice wouldn’t be responding to false allegations.

In addition to the uncertainties about who will take the governor’s post, more scandals are looming. The FBI reportedly confiscated a radio producer’s phone over reports that he’d offered a government official’s son $100,000 to not publish another trove of leaked texts, according to El Vocero.

Cover image: Departamento de Justicia. Conferencia de prensa de la secretaria de Justicia Wanda Vázquez para dar detalles de la citación al exsecretario de Hacienda Raúl Maldonado y a su hijo (del mismo nombre). (GDA via AP Images)

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