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Meet Wanda Vázquez: 5 Facts about Puerto Rico’s New Governor

Since Ricardo Rosselló announced his resignation as governor of Puerto Rico, the focus has been on his successor, 59-year-old Wanda Vázquez since many are now protesting against the former prosecutor.

Vázquez, who’s set to take over Rosselló‘s position, has limited experience leading government agencies so many believe that leading the administration is a task she may not be equipped or experienced enough to handle. Vázquez is set to become Governor of Puerto Rico on August 2. 

Puerto Rico’s constitution dictates the secretary of state is first in line to take over if the governor resigns. However, Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín, one of the 12 men who took part in the controversial chat that leaked, resigned July 13 amid the controversy.

In response to the controversy that led to Rosselio’s resignation, Vázquez released a statement saying: “I recognize that the frustrations and pressures of the day-to-day can be expressed in an incorrect way within the privacy of a friendship. But I have to express the deep regret this causes me as a woman, as a mother, as a professional and as a citizen of this beautiful island.”

Soon after the announcement that Vázquez would take over, calls for her resignation began trending on Twitter with the hashtag #WandaRenuncia.

Here are five things you should know about the controversial figure:

She was the first secretary of justice to face criminal charges.

In November 2018, Vázquez faced allegations that she had improperly intervened on behalf of her daughter and son-in-law in a theft case from their home. She was briefly suspended from her post during the investigation but was later cleared of any ethical violations due to insufficient evidence against her, Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día reported.

When Rosselló immediately reinstated her, he drew criticism because it came before the period of an appeal had passed, the New York Times reported.

Her office led a probe into the office of Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz following allegations of corruption. The investigation resulted in the federal indictment of a senate official for submitting fake invoices benefitting Rivera’s political allies. This fueled a public battle between them where he called for her resignation, accusing her of committing crimes and mishandling cases. However, there are allegations that she didn’t properly investigate the case.

There are documents coming out now showing she did not investigate,” school teacher Miriam Melendez told USA Today. “She was not ethical.”

Rivera has called Vázquez “the secretary of nothing,” according to the New York Times. 

 

She has been criticized for not prioritizing the needs of women in Puerto Rico.

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if you know anything about me, it is that i am very proud of where i come from. i love puerto rico with every ounce of my being. seeing the people who are constantly being pushed aside and walked all over demand there be change has been monumental for me. there is no excuse for the misogynistic, homophobic and simply disrespectful comments that were made by puerto rican officals in the chat. no excuse for the mockery of the dead following maría, which includes my own dear uncle. no excuse for the failure to recognize and respect the 4,645 people who were lost in maría. no excuse for the misplacement of nearly 15 million in government funds. people like rosselló are the reason that the economy in puerto rico is awful. the reason that puerto ricans continue to flee to the mainland because there appears to be no further hope for the island. no more. now is the time that we demand to be better, and that began with the resignation of ricky rosselló (a major victory !!). the fight doesn’t end there- his successors are not much better. it was #rickyrenuncia, and now we’re going with #wandarenuncia. and of course, make sure that if you choose to use your voice, that you aren’t misogynistic in your call for her resignation. if you have any questions, feel free to dm me and i’ll answer to the best of my ability <3 #rickyrenuncia #llevatelajunta #wandarenuncia #puertoricoprotests

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 Vazquez worked as an attorney specializing in domestic and sexual violence and led the Office of Women’s Affairs since 2010. However, she drew criticism from women’s rights activists for her “lack of commitment to the protection of human rights,” according to Telemundo, for not speaking up about the gender-based violence on the island.
Women’s groups urged the governor’s administration to declare a state of emergency, organizing a sit-in in front of La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansions, for three days in November 2018 to raise awareness.
A lot of feminist groups were very critical of Wanda Vázquez,” Saadi Rosado, who works with the advocacy group the Feminist Collective, told the Times. “She failed to address gender violence issues and was another piece of government bureaucracy.”

She was meant to remain head of the department for 10 years but Rosselló appointed her as Justice Secretary in 2017.

She was accused of delaying an investigation into questionable licensing of medical marijuana clinics.

In response to this accusation, she posted a statement in Spanish on Twitter saying: “The interpretations that were published today correspond to vicious attacks that seek to attack our integrity. The interpretation that has been given to these matters is false and defamatory.”

She hasn’t addressed Hurricane Maria relief.

Another major issue people have against Vázquez is the fact that she hasn’t looked into what happened to the relief money for Hurricane Maria, USA Today reports. When she released the statement regarding the marijuana case, she failed to mention any news on Maria relief.

“She didn’t address directly in the press release the issue with María relief,” Carlos A. Suárez Carrasquillo, a Puerto Rico native who lectures on Latin American at the University of Florida told USA Today. “There is significant opposition to her.”

“Vázquez is unlikely to stay as a permanent governor,” he said. “Especially if accusations keep piling up and protest against her continue and pick up steam.”

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