Who Wants To Be Governor Of Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló is set to leave office on Friday, but his designated successor doesn't want the job.
The woman who is set to succeed Ricardo Rosselló as Governor of Puerto Rico is saying that she doesn’t want the job, calling the future of the government of the island Commonwealth into doubt as the days until Rosselló’s resignation get closer:
Puerto Rico was set to get a new leader after its governor announced he would resign following mass protests over corruption allegations and offensive leaked chats about hurricane victims, political opponents and even supporters.
But Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez Garced tweeted Sunday afternoon that she doesn’t want the job.
Normally, the secretary of state would succeed Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, per Puerto Rico’s constitution. But Luis Gerardo Rivera Marín also resigned over his role in the leaked online messages, one of more than a dozen officials felled along with Rosselló. Next up was Vázquez Garced.
Rosselló still has time to negotiate a new secretary of state appointment with others in his New Progressive Party before Aug. 2, when he has said he will step down. Vázquez Garced said she has told Rosselló that she hopes he submits a candidate for the position before then.
Vázquez Garced’s announcement turning down the position came as Puerto Ricans had begun to rally against her and as #WandaRenuncia (“Resign, Wanda”) trended preemptively on Twitter. Spray-painted messages protesting Vázquez Garced quickly covered up old graffiti calling for Rosselló’s ouster in San Juan.
As I noted late last week, Rosselló’s decision to step aside came after weeks of protests sparked by the revelation of private text message conversations between him and other government officers. Those texts included both salacious details of apparent affairs on the part of government officials and also indications of high-level corruption. While Vázquez Garced was not implicated in those particular scandals, she nonetheless quickly became the next target of protesters due to other charges of wrongdoing from within her own office. Based on those objections it was clear that the protesters were not going to simply accept Vázquez Garced as the next Governor and end their protests. Indeed, it’s unclear exactly who the protesters would accept and what changes they are demanding in the government.
The next person in the line of succession after Vázquez Garced would ordinarily be the Treasury Secretary Francisco Pares. However, Pares is only 31 and thus not eligible to succeed to the Governor’s office under the island’s Constitution. After Pares, the next potential successor would be Education Secretary Eligio Hernandez. As I said, though, it’s not clear if this would be an acceptable alternative to the protesters. Additionally, as the English language version of El Nuevo Dio notes, there is a possibility that the next Governor could be someone who doesn’t currently hold an Executive Branch office:
With just five days before Ricardo Rosselló Nevares leaves office, Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez said yesterday that she has no interest in occupying the position of Governor.”
This is situation unveils conflicts and negotiations within the New Progressive Party (PNP) over determining who will succeed the governor
“I have no interest in being governor. It is a constitutional opinion. I hope that the governor identifies and submits a candidate for the position of Secretary of State before August 2 and I have told him so,” Vázquez said in a tweet on yesterday.
Almost immediately after Rosselló Nevares announced his resignation last week, Vázquez warned, in written statements, that “if necessary,” she was “willing to assume the historic mandate” as provided for in Law 7-1952, which establishes the order of succession.
“She is not interested in completing the term, nor does she have any political aspirations,” said a source about the Secretary of Justice.
Today, at 5:00 p.m., there will be a demonstration against Vázquez at the gates of the Justice Department.
Under Puerto Rico’s constitution, the secretary of state succeeds the governor, but since that position is vacant the Justice Secretary is next in line. If Vázquez decided to step down, Education Secretary Eligio Hernández Pérez would become governor because Treasury Secretary Franciso Parés is not old enough for the position.
Although Vázquez´s expressions may be the result of public pressure, they really unveil tension between two of the PNP’s main figures: Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González.
According to sources, they are both interested in replacing Rosselló Nevares, which could happen if one of them were appointed and confirmed as Secretary of State on or before August 2.
El Nuevo Día learned that there were different names recommended from inside and outside the island’s current political scenario, but none has convinced Rosselló Nevares.
In that context, the names of Rivera Schatz and González top the list.
Rivera Schatz has political experience and has strong support among senators, representatives and most PNP mayors. González, sources say, is supported by her extensive knowledge of Washington networks and her academic background to deal with the island´s complex debt issues and economy, as well as by the support of la Palma (PNP) members who voted her for Congress with more votes than Rosselló Nevares himself.
In this transition process, the governor has sought the support of a group including former representative Leo Díaz, former Chief of Staff Ricardo Llerandi, former executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) Carlos Mercader, lobbyist Manny Ortiz and Anthony Maceira, who yesterday resigned as Public Affairs Secretary and remains as Director of the Ports Authority.
At the moment, the senatorial leader seems to lead the list.
“This is a fight between Jenniffer González and Thomas Rivera Schatz, and the sad thing is that the governor doesn’t feel like appointing anyone either. Ricardo is leaving a headless government,” a source said
As they say, stay tuned.