The drama and speculation surrounding the selection for Puerto Rico’s next governor continues. Outgoing Governor Ricardo Rosselló nominated Pedro Pierluisi as his secretary of state on Wednesday, placing him in line to be governor when he steps down at 5 p.m. on Friday. Though Pierluisi formerly represented the island in Congress, his nomination is pending approval of a special session of the Legislative Assembly happening Thursday.
“I have listened to the people’s messages, their demonstrations, their demands, and their concerns,” Pierluisi said in a statement accepting the nomination. “And in this new challenge in my life, I will only answer to the people.”
Luego de mucho análisis y tomando en cuenta los mejores intereses del nuestro Pueblo, he seleccionado al Lcdo Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia para llenar la vacante de Secretario de Estado. Para atender el asunto, estaré convocando una extraordinaria para mañana.
— Ricardo Rosselló (@ricardorossello) July 31, 2019
While Pierluisi affirms he’ll be accountable to the Puerto Rican community who took to the streets in protest of Rosselló, there’s a chance he won’t be approved by legislators due to a lack of votes, according to Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz. Rivera Schatz is a declared candidate for the 2020 governor’s election.
In a statement on Wednesday, the politician said that the confirmation process will run its course. He didn’t mention Pierluisi by name or acknowledge his chances of winning the Senate vote. “There is no problem that does not have a solution, and in Puerto Rico, we should focus on solutions,” he said. “We should promote unity, not discord.”
Gov. Rosselló confirms he is nominating @pedropierluisi for Secretary of State, which means he could be Puerto Rico’s governor by Friday afternoon instead of Wanda Vázquez. Pierluisi needs to be confirmed by the Legislature first and it’s unclear what will happen in the Senate. https://t.co/MqXXnvHcNF
— Andrea González-Ramírez (@andreagonram) July 31, 2019
Other lawmakers are hesitant to place Pierluisi in the top spot. Under Puerto Rico’s Constitution, the secretary of state automatically replaces a governor who leaves office. He works for the law firm, O’Neill & Borges, that provides external legal consulting for the federal control board that was created to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances. (He was placed on a leave of absence from the law firm as of Tuesday.) His brother-in-law, José Carrión III, also heads the board, which has clashed with Rosselló and other elected officials.
“That’s a serious conflict of interest,” Rep. José Enrique Meléndez told the Associated Press. In 2016, the lawyer introduced legislation as resident commissioner that would reportedly benefit at least two Wall Street companies that had hired his wife, María Carrión, for financial advice, the New York Times reports.
People in #PuertoRico 🇵🇷 do agree with the embattled Governor #RicardoRosello of naming #PedroPierluisi for the #SecretaryofState position, upon confirmation of the island Congress who's not happy about the selection and plans to kill it. Why is that? https://t.co/kigghsy0xr
— Carol Alfonso 🇵🇷 (@caa1000) July 31, 2019
Protestors who took to the streets to oppose Rosselló, then Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez —who has vocalized she does not want the job — have also dismissed Rivera Schatz. Some think there’s a glimmer of hope or at least less corruption with Pierluisi.
“At least he’s the least bad,” said cab driver Juan Pagán to the New York Times. “The party [New Progressive Party] is completely corrupt. History has said that that is the most corrupt party in history.”
Others are skeptical of Pierluisi, noting his connection to La Junta, a reference to the eight-member Fiscal Oversight Management Board.
#pedropierluisi’s brother in law, Jose Carrion III, is the chairman of La Junta and the founder of Latinos for Trump
— Molly Crabapple🇵🇷 (@mollycrabapple) July 31, 2019
— Somos Muchos (@SRod_14) July 31, 2019
— Joseantonio Rivera (@Geo_Gibaro) August 1, 2019
If someone is not named by Friday, Vázquez is slated to succeed Rosselló.