© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Puerto Rico's Governor Crisis


For weeks, there were protests against Puerto Rico's governor Ricardo Rossello. Now that he has stepped down, his replacement may be forced out as well. Rossello only just resigned on Friday, and now the island's Supreme Court is trying to take action against the new governor, too. NPR's Adrian Florido has been following all of this from San Juan.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Before the week's end, Puerto Rico's Supreme Court could make Pedro Pierluisi the shortest serving governor in the island's history. That would be welcome news for some of the protesters who've been marching against him since he took the oath of office last Friday, like Carolina Coto.

CAROLINA COTO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "We just took to the streets," she says, "and forced one corrupt governor out, only to have another one installed." Protester Juan Correa says the demand that Pierluisi be removed from office is about principles, about protecting Puerto Rico's Constitution.

JUAN CORREA: The Constitution makes it very clear that, in order to be the governor of Puerto Rico, you need the consent of the Legislature. Without the consent of the Senate and the House of Representatives, you cannot be governor.

FLORIDO: That is the question that Puerto Rico's Supreme Court is expected to answer any day. Last Wednesday, Governor Ricardo Rossello appointed Pierluisi to the vacant post of secretary of state, making him first in the line of gubernatorial succession. But by the time Rossello left office two days later, Pierluisi had only been confirmed as secretary of state by the island's House of Representatives. Its Senate hadn't yet voted on his confirmation. Pierluisi took the governor's oath anyway.


PEDRO PIERLUISI: Good afternoon. Good evening. (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: In a press conference shortly after he took the oath, he cited a 2005 law that says confirmation isn't necessary for a secretary of state to take over should a governor resign. His decision to take office set off a power struggle within the ruling pro-statehood party.


FLORIDO: Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz called Pierluisi an illegitimate governor.


THOMAS RIVERA SCHATZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: Things have to be done according to the law, Rivera Schatz said on the Senate floor this week. He filed a lawsuit asking Puerto Rico's Supreme Court to remove Pierluisi from office. Should the court agree, the next in line to become governor would be justice secretary Wanda Vazquez, the island's top prosecutor. At his second press conference as governor, yesterday, Pierluisi acknowledged that the court could force him to step down any day.


PIERLUISI: We are a society of law and order. And yeah, people may disagree in terms of what the Constitution provides or the law. But, you know, that happens. That happens everywhere, and that's why we have the Supreme Court, and it'll do its job, I am sure.

FLORIDO: This entire episode has only prolonged the biggest political crisis in Puerto Rico's modern history. The euphoria that many Puerto Ricans felt after successfully forcing the resignation of Governor Rossello has turned to anxiety. Margarita Santiago and Francisco Carbonell were having coffee on a plaza two blocks from the governor's mansion.

MARGARITA SANTIAGO: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "After this, what's going to happen?" Santiago asked. "It makes us worry."

FRANCISCO CARBONELL: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "We need definitive answers," Carbonell said, "because Puerto Rico needs to start getting back on track."

Adrian Florido, NPR News, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

(SOUNDBITE OF KING CASH BEATZ'S "CHOPSTIX") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: August 6, 2019 at 11:00 PM CDT
In this broadcast, we incorrectly say that the Puerto Rican Supreme Court is trying to take action against the new governor. The court is set to rule on a lawsuit against him.
Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.