After Puerto Rico Supreme Court Ousts Pedro Pierluisi as Governor
Puerto Rico swore in a new governor, Wanda Vázquez, on Wednesday – the third in a week and the second woman to hold the post – after a Puerto Rico Supreme Court decision ousted Pedro Pierluisi, who was appointed by former governor Ricardo Rosselló.
Pierluisi governed for less than a week. And it’s unknown how long Vázquez, who is unpopular, will be governor since she had stated earlier that she didn’t want the job. Which means the game of gubernatorial musical chairs may not be over.
If it’s true that Vázquez doesn’t want to be governor of Puerto Rico, she can appoint a secretary of state who the legislature can then confirm. If that is accomplished, Vázquez can step aside and the new secretary of state becomes governor, which would be the fourth in just weeks.
In Puerto Rico the line of succession goes from the governor to the secretary of state, followed by the secretary of justice. But Puerto Rico didn’t have a secretary of state because he resigned after an obscene text scandal that also tanked Rosselló as governor. The texts combined with the FBI arrests of former and current administration officials and advisors generated massive protests.
Rosselló appointed Pierluisi as secretary of state, making him next in line for governor. Except for a sticky problem – Pierluisi was not confirmed by both chambers of the legislature, as Puerto Rico’s constitution requires.
Nonetheless, Pierluisi was sworn as the 13th governor of Puerto Rico on August 2.
The not-so-dynamic-duo of Rosselló and Pierluisi essentially attempted a coup d’etat by circumventing and subverting the constitution of Puerto Rico, a move that generated more protests and created further political uncertainty.
But the Puerto Rico Supreme Court saved the day in a unanimous decision dated August 7 that booted Pierluisi as governor. The court stated Pierluisi’s swearing-in was “unconstitutional” because his appointment as secretary of state had not been completely approved. Only the House had voted to approve Pierluisi’s appointment.
In his defense, Pierluisi argued that he didn’t need the approval of both the House and Senate to assume the governorship, which the court roundly rejected.
Rosselló demonstrated for all time that he really, really, really does not care about the wellbeing of Puerto Rico or its people. The same goes for Pierluisi, a lawyer whose ambition got in the way. His credibility, like that of Rosselló’s, has been shattered and his reputation stained.
But there is a saving grace, one that speaks well of Puerto Rico:
In an unlikely scenario the oldest colony in the world demonstrated in a matter of a few weeks how democracy works. The people democratically and without violence demanded accountability and evicted a sitting governor. And the island’s highest court stopped the Rosselló-Pierluisi coup d’etat dead in its tracks.
The people and the constitution of Puerto Rico have spoken. That is something the Puerto Rican people can be proud of.
˜˜María Padilla, Editor