Puerto Rico set for political clash over next governor

  • World
  • Thursday, 01 Aug 2019

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Pedro R. Pierluisi (D-PR), addresses delegates during the second session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 5, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

SAN JUAN (Reuters) - Puerto Rico's political crisis risked deepening on Thursday as lawmakers and street protesters opposed the Washington corporate lawyer tapped to replace disgraced Governor Ricardo Rosselló.

A day before Rosselló was set to resign over offensive chat messages that sparked mass protests, some members of his party vowed to reject his chosen successor, Pedro Pierluisi, largely over conflict of interest concerns.

Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets to demand Rosselló quit after the leaked messages unleashed rage over suspected administration corruption, slow recovery from 2017's deadly hurricanes and the U.S. territory's bankruptcy.

Rosselló called a special session of Puerto Rico's legislature on Thursday for lawmakers to vote on Pierluisi as secretary of state, and therefore next in line to succeed him.

Members of Rosselló's New Progressive Party (PNP) said Pierluisi's role as a lawyer for law firm O'Neill & Borges advising the federally created financial oversight board directing Puerto Rico's bankruptcy disqualified him for the job.

Street protesters accused Pierluisi of serving the interests of Puerto Rico's political elite, not the people's, in helping establish the widely-disliked board when serving as the island's delegate to the U.S. Congress, then representing it as a lawyer.

Pierluisi released a statement saying he had "listened to the people's messages, their demonstrations," and he would "only answer to the people."

The speaker of Puerto Rico's House of Representatives, Carlos Méndez said he favoured Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, also of the PNP, as secretary of state over Pierluisi, citing the lawyer's role at O'Neill & Borges.

Mendez suggested Pierluisi did not have the votes in the lower house to be confirmed.

But in a sign of divisions, several PNP legislators including Yashira Lebrón and Luis Perez Ortiz told newspaper El Nuevo Dia they backed Pierluisi.

And Ramón Luis Rivera, PNP mayor of Puerto Rico's second-largest city Bayamón, threw his weight behind the 60-year-old former attorney general.

"It's time to put Puerto Rico FIRST and end the uncertainty we're engulfed in," Rivera tweeted. "Let's give the governor's nominee, Pedro Pierluisi, a chance."

The island's legislature will convene at 2 p.m. to consider the nomination, with Pierluisi needing a majority of votes to be confirmed.

(Reporting by Luis Valentin Ortiz and Camilo Cohecha in San Juan, Nick Brown in New York and Karen Pierog in Chicago; Writing by Andrew Hay; Editing by Grant McCool)

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Next In World

Russian military jet intercepts U.S., Norwegian patrol planes over Barents Sea -RIA
Putin to speak at Biden's online climate summit
Pacific Ocean storm intensifies into year's first super typhoon
Greece opens to tourists, anxious to move on from crisis season
Analysis-Guatemala defies Washington, pushing anti-graft judge from top court
Cross-border drug trafficking cases nearly doubled in four years -EU agency
India's Modi scorned over reckless rallies, religious gathering amid virus mayhem
Hunger-striking Navalny transferred to Russian prison hospital
Local uprisings emerge to challenge Myanmar's army
Austria will only use Sputnik V vaccine after EMA approval, Kurz says

Stories You'll Enjoy