Puerto Rico’s secretary of justice prefers not to succeed as governor after party member resigns in disgrace

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Secretary of Justice, Wanda Vásquez Garced, is next in line to assume the governor’s role of Puerto Rico, but she refuses the succession.

In a Twitter post on Sunday, Vásquez Garced said:

I reiterate, I have no interest in occupying the position of Governor. It is a Constitutional opinion. I hope that the Governor identifies and submits a candidate for the position of Secretary of State before August 2 and I have told him so.

Vásquez Garced’s statement comes less than a week after disgraced governor, Ricardo A. Rosselló announced that he will step down on August 2. His resignation follows days of intense protest by discontent constituents who called for his leave after a leaked private group chat went public. Now called #telegramgate or #chatgate, Rosselló’s conversation with close associates revealed them mocking citizens and even engaging in conversations that implied criminal activity.

Protestors in San Juan call for the ouster of Governor Ricardo Rosselló.

The scandal, which resulted in a looming impeachment, comes years after criticisms of the Rosselló Administration began—from fiscal issues to his handling of Puerto Rico in a post-Hurricane Maria and Irma island.

Under the Commonwealth’s constitution, the secretary of state, Luis Rivera Marín was Rosselló’s successor. However, he left office on July 13 when he was named as one of the 12 male participants in the chat scandal.

Although, Vásquez Garced did not participate in the chat, she was the main subject of the group dialogue. According to Latino Rebels, members of #chatgate discussed a recent investigation involving accusations by the Office of the Independent Special Prosecutor that Vásquez Garced carried out ethical violations when she intervened on behalf of her daughter and son-in-law who were charged with living in a house containing stolen government property. The first US secretary of justice to face criminal charges, the inquiry was dropped then Vásquez Garced was reinstated after a brief suspension.

| Watch a segment from documentary iLucha Sí: A Fight for Public Education in Puerto Rico | 

In a popular political blog, En blanca y Negro, by Sandra Rodriguez Cotto, she says Vásquez Garced failed to prosecute fellow members of of the New Progressive Party, along with a laundry list of dirty tactics.

Rodriguez Cotto alleges that there exists another chat between Vásquez Garced and former Secretary of the Treasury and the Interior, Raúl Maldonado, talking about the secretary of justice failing to investigate the disappearance of supply wagons after Hurricane Maria. 

Included, Cotto demands that Vásquez Garced be question about accusations of her placing unfounded pressure on the Commonwealth’s Medical Cannabis Board. While at the same time, it is accused that she has not called for an investigation to look into the disappearance of $11 million from the pharmacy board.

Amid rumblings of citizen distrust towards Vásquez Garced, the House Minority Speaker, Rafael“ Tatito ”Hernández Montañez announced a piece of legislation before the succession takes place.

“We have filed a resolution of investigation and another of interpellation so that before August 2, Wanda Vázquez comes here to the Legislative Assembly to render accounts and explain. That is the responsibility of the Legislative Assembly, both popular, penetrated and independent. There is the parliamentary process,” he says.

While Vásquez Garced refuses succession, the island faces a constitutional crisis. The official after her, Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés, is too young at 31-years-old. The position calls for a governor to be at least 35. However, the question remains if Vásquez Garced is relinquishing an obligation of her post.

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