Court rejection of Pierluisi leaves Puerto Rico leadership in flux

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The Puerto Rico Supreme Court on Wednesday afternoon unanimously rejected Pedro Pierluisi’s rise to governorship, leaving the long-term leadership of the territory’s local government up in the air.

On Wednesday afternoon Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez Garced said she would swear in as governor, following Puerto Rico’s constitution’s line of succession.

According to this constitution if a governor leaves office then the secretary of state should be the replacement and if there is no secretary of state than the secretary of justice should become governor.

Gov. Ricardo Rosselló nominated Pierluisi as the new secretary of state on July 29. While the Puerto Rico House of Representatives approved Pierluisi before Rosselló resigned his governorship, the Senate didn’t.

After Pierluisi was sworn in with Rosselló’s approval early Friday evening, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz sued Pierluisi, saying the former resident commissioner wasn’t the legitimate governor because he lacked Senate approval. Pierluisi claimed a 2005 law allowed him to take the governorship under special circumstances and that these circumstances existed.

Around 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon the Supreme Court approved Rivera Schatz’s argument. It said that Pierluisi must resign his position by 5 p.m.

Vázquez Garced has said she isn’t interested in serving as governor, even though she is willing to assume office. It is possible she will seek someone to replace herself in the role.

Local media and analysts have suggested several possible replacements: Rivera Schatz, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, Senate Vice President Larry Seilhamer, and Bayamón Mayor Ramón Luis Rivera, Jr.

After the court’s decision was released, González Colón released a statement that said: “The sense of stability cannot be restored, nor can credibility be restored at the expense of institutional order. If it is important to restore credibility in Washington, we must show we are capable of governing ourselves according to our own constitution.”

On Wednesday afternoon after the court decision, the El Nuevo Día news web site reported that key leaders of the New Progressive Party, which controls the executive office and both houses of the legislature, have coalesced around making González Colón the new governor.

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