Sunday 25 August 2019

Chaos as woman set to replace Puerto Rica leader rejects job

Won’t take job: Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez. Photo: Reuters
Won’t take job: Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez. Photo: Reuters

Dánica Coto

The woman who is supposed to replace Puerto Rico's embattled governor announced yesterday that she doesn't want the job as the US territory reels from political crisis.

Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez said in a Twitter post that she hopes Governor Ricardo Rosselló will appoint a secretary of state before resigning on August 2 as planned.

Former secretary of state Luis Rivera Marín would have been next in line as governor, according to the US territory's constitution. But he is one of more than a dozen officials who have resigned in recent weeks since someone leaked an obscenity-laced chat in which Mr Rosselló and close advisers insulted people including women and victims of Hurricane Maria.

Mr Rosselló on Wednesday announced that he would step down following nearly two weeks of massive protests amid anger over the chat, corruption charges against several former government officials and a 13-year recession.

Mr Marín's resignation had left Ms Vázquez as next in line to be governor. But she said she has already told Mr Rosselló about her wishes, creating a chaotic scenario about who will be Puerto Rico's next leader.

If Mr Rosselló's choice for a secretary of state is not approved by the island's House and Senate, Puerto Rico's law dictates the treasury secretary would be next in line if the justice secretary doesn't become governor. But current Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés is too young at 31. The constitution dictates the person would have to be at least 35, so that would leave interim Education Secretary Eligio Hernández next in line. He replaced former education secretary Julia Keleher, who resigned in April and was arrested on July 10 on federal corruption charges. She has pleaded not guilty.

Ms Vázquez's comments came less than an hour after Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira resigned.

"There were many challenges that we had to face together as Puerto Ricans, although sometimes we differed," he said. "The work of each one of us must continue with the welfare of our island and its people as its north."

The announcement comes a day before Puerto Ricans planned another march, this time against Ms Vázquez, who is accused of not ordering an investigation into the alleged mismanagement of supplies for hurricane victims.

Irish Independent

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