Puerto Rico Waits For Gov. Ricardo Rosselló's Promised Resignation

Aug 2, 2019
Originally published on August 2, 2019 7:54 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We've been following the high political drama unfolding in Puerto Rico. The island now has a new governor. This follows weeks of protests demanding the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló. The man he handpicked as his successor has been talking to reporters, including NPR's Adrian Florido. He joins me now from San Juan.

And, Adrian, first tell us a little bit about the background of the new governor - who he is. And what did he have to say tonight?

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Well, Pedro Pierluisi is his name. He is a seasoned Puerto Rican politician. He has served as Puerto Rico's Justice secretary, which is the equivalent of its attorney general. He ran for governor but lost the primary in 2016 to Governor Rosselló. Most importantly, I think, though, he served eight years as Puerto Rico's non-voting representative to Congress, making him a well-known quantity in Washington, something that he's selling as a valuable asset right now given that Puerto Rico is really still struggling to get the billions of dollars in disaster recovery funding it's been expecting - struggling to get that money to flow from Washington. So what - you know, the governor came out to speak to reporters tonight for the first time as governor. But he also acknowledged that he's got sort of a tenuous grasp on the governorship right now because there are legal questions about whether the way he ascended to that office is legitimate.

Under Puerto Rico's constitution, the person first in line to become governor if a governor should step down is the secretary of state. Governor Rosselló just appointed him as secretary of state three days ago, and so he has not had time to get the full confirmation of Puerto Rico's legislature. Earlier today, the lower chamber gave its confirmation, but the Senate of Puerto Rico has not. And so because of that, there are legal questions about whether he will even be able to remain in that job. What he said is that he hopes that next week, the Senate will, basically, give him the thumbs up to remain governor. But it's unclear whether that's something that can constitutionally - can even be done - so unclear whether he'll remain in office through next week.

CORNISH: And in terms of popular support, how does it look for Pierluisi?

FLORIDO: He is saying that he has a lot of populace support in Puerto Rico. But I think it's also impossible to deny the fact that hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets last week to demand the resignation of Puerto Rico's governor, in part, because of some offensive text messages that were leaked but also because a lot of the policies that the governor was implementing that people disagreed with. Pedro Pierluisi represents, in many ways, a continuity with the outgoing governor's policy platforms. And so there has been, on the streets, since it was announced that he was going to be, potentially, the successor to the governor, a lot of opposition on the streets to Pedro Pierluisi too - so unclear whether people will rise up against him the way that they did against the governor. But there certainly is not uniform sort of support for him across Puerto Rico.

CORNISH: What's the scene there now?

FLORIDO: Well, you know, people have been gathering all day outside the governor's mansion, anticipating the departure of Governor Rosselló. And so, really, it feels like a party outside the governor's mansion right now. I just came from there. There were people banging pots and pans, celebrating, dancing in the streets. There are also people who are protesting the swearing in of Pedro Pierluisi as governor because of some of the issues that I just mentioned.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Adrian Florido, joining us from San Juan.

Adrian, thanks for your reporting.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.