Hours before Ricardo Rossello is expected to leave office, Puerto Ricans still have no idea who will replace him.
Less than 24 hours before Ricardo Rossello is due to step down as Puerto Rico’s governor, the choice of his successor remains unclear amid a deepening political crisis in the US territory. Rossello is set to leave the office at 5 pm local time (21:00 GMT) on Friday, his resignation coming in the wake of a scandal over leaked messages that sparked mass protests.
The question of who will become governor took a turn Sunday when the next in line to the office, Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez, tweeted she didn’t want the job.
“I reiterate, I have no interest in occupying the position of Governor. The constitution dictates it. 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,” Vasquez wrote in a tweet in Spanish on Sunday.
On Wednesday, Rosello nominated lawyer Pedro Pierluisi to be secretary of state – a post which would have made him first in line to succeed the outgoing governor.
Pierluisi, a corporate lawyer with Washington law firm O’Neill & Borges, has faced intense public criticism as he works for a company that represents La Junta, the US federal control board created by the US Congress in 2016 to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances, which has long advocated for painful austerity measures.
Protesters have accused him of serving the interests of the board, and not the Puerto Rican public.
Rossello announced his resignation in a video message to the island late Wednesday evening. “I hope that this decision will serve as a call for citizen reconciliation that we need so much to move forward with the welfare of Puerto Rico as its north,” Rossello said in the remarks announcing his resignation.
Treasury Secretary Francisco Pares is next in the line of succession, but he cannot take the role because he is 31 and the constitution states an age requirement of at least 35 to be governor.
Education Secretary Eligio Hernandez, who is largely unknown and has little political experience outside of his recent work inside the Department of Education, would then have the job after Vazquez if she were to step aside. Hernandez got the job when the previous Education Secretary Julia Keleher was arrested on federal corruption charges, just days before the Telegram text chats were released by the nonprofit Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism.
Rossello can submit a nominee to be the secretary of state for legislative approval prior to his departure. That person would assume the role of governor Friday evening if approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate.