Puerto Rico's Next Governor Has Her Own Challenges

Wanda Vázquez could see her term complicated by criticism
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 25, 2019 1:30 PM CDT
Puerto Rico's 2nd Female Governor Has Challenges, Too
In this Jan. 16, 2018, file photo, then Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez answers reporters' questions in San Juan, Puerto Rico.   (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti, File)

The woman set to become Puerto Rico's next governor—and just its second female governor—has been criticized for her reluctance to confront problems in Gov. Ricardo Rosselló's administration during her nearly two years as the territory's top law enforcement official. That criticism is likely to complicate Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez's ability to complete Rosselló's term in the face of widespread public anger toward the departing governor and some of his male aides over a leaked online chat in which they mocked their constituents and made insulting remarks about women. Vázquez, a 59-year-old former prosecutor, has limited experience in leading government agencies, let alone an entire administration. Early Thursday, she issued a statement shortly after Rosselló announced his resignation, the AP reports.

"I understand he made the right decision, for the good of both his family and for Puerto Rico," she said. "We will be working together to have a responsible and transparent transition process." Some of the criticism she's faced:

  • Before she was sworn in as justice secretary in January 2017, Vázquez worked as a district attorney for two decades at the island's justice department and in 2010 was appointed director of the Office for Women's Rights. After she became secretary, she was criticized by some for not being aggressive enough in pursuing corruption investigations involving members of her pro-statehood New Progressive Party, of which Rosselló also is a member.
  • Critics also said Vázquez, who once handled domestic and sexual abuse cases as a prosecutor, did not prioritize gender violence cases as secretary.
  • Nearly two years after she became justice secretary, Vázquez became embroiled in a high-profile court case that turned some Puerto Ricans against her. Last November, the Office of Government Ethics said it had received a complaint about possible ethical violations involving Vázquez, who was accused of intervening in a case involving a suspect charged with stealing government property at a home where Vázquez's daughter lived. Vázquez appeared in court to face charges that included two violations of a local government ethics law. In December, a judge found there was no evidence to arrest her.
(More Puerto Rico stories.)

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