Fri | Dec 4, 2020

People anxious for new leader amid political crisis

Published:Wednesday | July 31, 2019 | 12:18 AM
A man dressed as a doctor holds a sign that reads, ‘Crime scene’ in Spanish during a protest at the Department of Justice to demand the resignation of Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Monday, July 29, 20.
A man dressed as a doctor holds a sign that reads, ‘Crime scene’ in Spanish during a protest at the Department of Justice to demand the resignation of Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Monday, July 29, 20.

SAN JUAN (AP):

The unprecedented resignation of Puerto Rico’s governor after days of massive islandwide protests has thrown the United States territory into a full-blown political crisis.

Less than four days before Governor Ricardo Rosselló steps down, no one knows who will take his place. Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez, his constitutional successor, said Sunday that she didn’t want the job. The next in line would be Education Secretary Eligio Hernández, a largely unknown bureaucrat with little political experience.

Rosselló’s party says it wants him to nominate a successor before he steps down, but Rosselló has said nothing about his plans, time is running out, and some on the island are even talking about the need for more federal control over a territory whose finances are already overseen from Washington.

Rosselló resigned following nearly two weeks of daily protests in which hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets, mounted horses and jet skis, organised a ‘twerkathon’, and came up with other creative ways to demand his ouster.

On Monday, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Department of Justice building to demand that Vázquez resign before becoming the island’s next governor. Under normal circumstances, Rosselló’s successor would be the territory’s secretary of state, but veteran politician Luis Rivera Marín resigned from that post on July 13 as part of the scandal that toppled the governor.

The crowd marched in a large circle, banging pots and clutching Puerto Rican flags as they yelled, “You didn’t do your job, Wanda Vázquez. Go to hell!”

Among the protesters was psychologist and yoga teacher Lourdes Soler Muñiz, who also protested almost every day before Rosselló resigned.

“The people have the power. They are our employees,” she said, referring to government officials. “We’re not going to stop. I am 56 years old, and I’m not growing tired. Imagine what the young people are capable of.”

Vázquez, a 59-year-old prosecutor who worked as a district attorney and was later director of the Office for Women’s Rights, does not have widespread support among Puerto Ricans. Many have criticised her for not being aggressive enough in investigating cases involving members of the party that she and Rosselló belong to and of not prioritising gender violence as justice secretary. She has also been accused of not pursuing the alleged mismanagement of supplies for victims of Hurricane Maria.

Facing a new wave of protests, Vázquez tweeted Sunday that she had no desire to succeed Rosselló.

“I have no interest in the governor’s office,” she wrote. “I hope the governor nominates a secretary of state before August 2.”