Puerto Rico Has a New Governor, but There Are Already Problems

Some question legitimacy of Pedro Pierluisi, sworn in to replace Ricardo Rossello
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2019 6:00 AM CDT
Meet Puerto Rico's New Governor
Pedro Pierluisi, sworn in as Puerto Rico's governor, smiles during a press conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Friday.   (AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo)

Puerto Rico has a new governor, and his "unbreakable commitment" to the island is "stronger than ever." Those were the words of Pedro Pierluisi, 60, sworn in Friday to the US territory's top spot after a tumultuous month, a rep for the governor's office says, per CNN. Pierluisi replaces Ricardo Rossello, who stepped down as promised after getting swept up in a chat-messaging scandal and stoking the ire of residents already miffed by Puerto Rico's economic woes, corruption, and problems after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Pierluisi was just appointed as secretary of state by Rossello earlier in the week—replacing Luis Rivera Marin, who was also a political casualty of the chat-messaging hubbub—making Pierluisi next in line to assume the governorship. And therein lies the issue now threatening the new governor and setting off what the Wall Street Journal calls a "legal battle for political power."

Some are questioning Pierluisi's legitimacy, saying he needs to be confirmed by Puerto Rico's Senate and House of Representatives; Rossello had disputed that, citing a nearly 70-year-old law. The House has already given its thumbs-up, but Pierluisi now must get the OK from the Senate on Wednesday—and that confirmation isn't a guarantee. The Guardian notes that several lawmakers are citing a conflict of interest on Pierluisi's part due to his work for a law firm involved with the island's Financial Oversight and Management Board, which is wrangling with Puerto Rico's financial problems. If Pierluisi isn't confirmed, Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez is the next eligible government official in line to become governor, a role she doesn't want, but one she said she would accept if necessary. (More Puerto Rico stories.)

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