SAN JUAN (Reuters) – The resignation of Puerto Rico’s governor after mass protests has sparked a succession battle, and a Washington company lawyer in a roundabout way linked to the present, scandal-plagued administration might emerge because the winner.
Governor Ricardo Rosselló mentioned on Wednesday he would step down on Aug. 2 within the face of public anger over the discharge of profane chat messages and embezzlement fees in opposition to two former administration officers.
Three individuals seem like within the strongest positions to succeed Rossello: Pedro Pierluisi, a former Puerto Rico consultant within the U.S. Congress and now an lawyer with Washington regulation agency O’Neill & Borges; Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and Jenniffer Gonzalez, Puerto Rico’s present delegate to the U.S. Congress.
What occurs within the subsequent week earlier than Rossello steps down is essential. As of Friday, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez is subsequent in line to succeed him as a result of the U.S. territory has no secretary of state, with the resignation of Luis Rivera Marín from that put up within the wake of the chat scandal.
The U.S. territory’s structure stipulates that whoever holds that put up is first in line to succeed the governor.
However protesters who compelled Rosselló from workplace have vowed to oppose Vázquez, saying she is simply too near the disgraced governor.
Their ire has prompted leaders of Rosselló’s pro-statehood New Progressive Social gathering (PNP) to think about Pierluisi as a potential successor, in keeping with 4 sources conversant in the matter, who requested to not be named so they may talk about it.
He might turn into the following governor if nominated and confirmed as secretary of state earlier than Aug. 2.
Pierluisi, who represented the island in Washington from 2009 to 2017, has made it clear to occasion leaders he would settle for the job, in keeping with certainly one of these individuals. He ran in opposition to Rosselló within the gubernatorial election in 2016, shedding in a main.
EYES ON 2020
Foremost within the minds of occasion leaders is whether or not Rosselló’s successor may also help them retain the governorship when it comes up for grabs in November 2020.
Earlier than the implosion of his administration, Rivera Schatz and Gonzalez had been seen as potential PNP candidates to problem Rosello in a 2020 main.
Earlier than the resignation, two sources instructed Reuters Gonzalez and Rivera Schatz had been conducting personal opinion polling to see which might stand a greater likelihood with voters in 2020.
It isn’t fully clear how Rossello’s early departure could have influenced their ambitions.
However Rivera Schatz is seen by some members of his occasion as too near Rossello to be a viable candidate in 2020.
A consultant for Vàzquez declined to touch upon hypothesis about her future, whereas Gonzalez’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark. Rivera Schatz’s workplace couldn’t instantly be reached.
Pierluisi, a former Puerto Rico secretary of justice, is favored by some Puerto Rico advocates in Washington for his familiarity with federal politics, in keeping with one of many sources.
One other of the sources mentioned Pierluisi has harassed to occasion leaders that he wouldn’t search re-election in 2020, preserving the door open for Rivera Schatz, Gonzalez or one other candidate.
However there’s a potential roadblock. Pierluisi’s regulation agency presently advises Puerto Rico’s oversight board, a job that will constitutes a battle of curiosity that will dissuade the legislature from approving him.
He additionally confronted accusations in a 2016 New York Instances report of potential conflicts of curiosity between laws he had launched and monetary consulting work by his spouse, allegations they each denied.
Even so, Pierluisi had a monitor file of gaining elevated federal funding for Puerto Rico’s three.2 million individuals whereas serving in Congress.
Puerto Ricans desire a chief to steer them out of disaster and financial recession after back-to-back 2017 hurricanes that killed round three,000 individuals simply months after the U.S. territory filed for chapter.
That mentioned, Puerto Rico Consultant Luis Vega Ramos, a member of the opposition Well-liked Democratic Social gathering, mentioned in an interview on Friday that he noticed Gonzalez as a robust candidate to be appointed governor.
Earlier this week, Gonzalez proposed that President Donald Trump identify a particular coordinator to supervise federal funding to Puerto Rico. Whereas the thought of federal oversight is anathema to most Puerto Ricans resentful of the island’s colonial roots, the thought might fulfill the Trump administration’s issues about island management.
Her alliance with Trump could give her occasion its greatest likelihood at salvaging victory in 2020, Vega Ramos mentioned, and “she can be in a greater place to marketing campaign for 2020 as an incumbent.”
The principle hurdle to Gonzalez’s appointment is seen as Rivera Schatz. As Senate president, he might make it troublesome for Gonzalez to be confirmed.
Reporting by Nick Brown in San Juan; extra reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, N.M.; writing by Frank McGurty; modifying by Jonathan Oatis