Published: Thu, August 08, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Vazquez sworn in as Puerto Rico's governor after court ousts Pierluisi

Vazquez sworn in as Puerto Rico's governor after court ousts Pierluisi

Puerto Rico's Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected as unconstitutional the swearing-in of Pedro Pierluisi as governor, reopening the political crisis in the self-governing United States territory. The ruling likely means that Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez will take the island's top job - even though she has said she didn't want the position.

"I will continue to focus on helping our people regain their way in an orderly and peaceful fashion", she said in a statement, adding that she promised to assume the position with "humility and commitment".

But the appointment took place while the Senate was not in session, and as a result Supreme Court justices ruled that Pierluisi's assumption was unconstitutional, since he had not been confirmed by the Senate.

The high court's ruling followed weeks of political turmoil with Rossello resigning after of days of protests demanding he step down.

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, who filed the suit, says the law was incorrectly interpreted, and Pierluisi's actions "usurped the prerogatives of advice and consent of the Senate of Puerto Rico", court documents show.

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Rossello stepped down last week amid a burgeoning corruption scandal and mass protests that erupted after it was revealed that he used misogynistic and homophobic language in a private chat group with 11 of his advisers and confidants.

The problems did not end there, his successor Pedro Pierluisi became governor after Rossello appointed him secretary of state shortly before leaving office. "The constitution of Puerto Rico should be respected!"

In a statement following the court ruling, Puerto Rico's USA congressional representative, Gonzalez, said it is "important to restore credibility in Washington by showing that we are able to govern ourselves according to our own constitution".

The political uncertainty comes at a critical time in Puerto Rico's bankruptcy and as it seeks billions of dollars in federal funding for healthcare and recovery efforts from devastating 2017 hurricanes.

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