Former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned last Friday but controversy in Puerto Rico remains after the Senate filed a lawsuit declaring the administration of new Gov. Pedro Pierluisi unconstitutional. For the first time in seven decades, an unelected governor is in charge of Puerto Rico, NBC Latino reports.
“Although it is regrettable that this matter has to be dealt with in our courts, I hope that it will be treated with the greatest urgency and diligence for the good of the people of Puerto Rico,” Pierluisi said. He was sworn in after Rosselló’s resignation, in the wake of the outrage following the reveal of a private chat group with 11 of his advisers where he used misogynistic and homophobic language.
An hour before Rosselló was set to officially resign, Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives confirmed Pierluisi’s nomination as secretary of state after a hearing Friday. Luis Rivera Marín was the previous secretary of state who resigned July 13 after he was revealed to be one of the 11 men involved in the chat.
Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez was originally going to take over amid protests that she too should resign but she later came out saying she didn’t want the position. However, Pierluisi’s path to becoming governor was also challenged.
Pierluisi was appointed to secretary of state on Wednesday but under Puerto Rico’s constitution, he needed approval from both chambers of the legislature to take office. Even so, Rosselló appointed him governor at 5 p.m. Friday, relying on a 1952 law that was amended in 2005 and now the Senate is questioning the validity of that law.
Rep. Jenniffer González is one of the authors of the law that determines who becomes Puerto Rico’s governor if both positions, governor and secretary of state, are simultaneously vacant, NBC Latino reports. Law states that “a Secretary of State must occupy his position in property” in order to step up as the governor, suggesting that Pierluisi should have been confirmed by both the House and the Senate.
“The Constitution and the law of succession is very clear,” said González in a statement, adding that Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez should be the new governor since Pierluisi was only confirmed by the House. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who’s running for governor in the 2020 elections, already announced her plans to file an appeal on Monday morning to challenge Pierluisi’s position. Yulín Cruz became a popular figure in Puerto Rico for speaking out and demanding support after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island.
Pierluisi said in a statement that “he was sworn in as the Governor of Puerto Rico in accordance to Section 7 and Article 4 of Puerto Rico’s Constitution.” He clarified that he will remain as governor until the next election only if the Senate ratifies him today, otherwise he will resign.