Puerto Rico thrown into turmoil as supreme court ousts new governor

Removal of Pedro Pierluisi, who was appointed by disgraced Ricardo Rossell, clears way for justice secretary Wanda Vzquez to succeed him

Puerto Ricos supreme court on Wednesday overturned the swearing-in of Pedro Pierluisi as the islands governor less than a week ago, clearing the way for the justice secretary, Wanda Vzquez, to take up the post after weeks of turmoil. The unanimous ruling said Pierluisi must step aside immediately.

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The high courts decision, which cannot be appealed, was expected to unleash new demonstrations and deepen the tumult because many Puerto Ricans have said they do not want Vzquez as governor.

Pierluisi said previously he would respect whatever ruling was made.

Pierluisi was appointed secretary of state by the then governor, Ricardo Rossell, while legislators were in recess, and only the house approved his nomination. Pierluisi was then sworn in as governor on Friday after Rossell formally resigned in response to angry street protests.

Puerto Ricos senate sued to challenge Pierluisis legitimacy as governor, arguing that its approval was also necessary, and the supreme court held in favor of the senate.

On Monday the senate decided not to hold a vote, although the bodys president, Thomas Rivera Schatz, said Pierluisi had only five of 15 required votes. The same day the supreme court announced it would hear the case.

The senate had also asked the court to declare unconstitutional a portion of a 2005 law saying a secretary of state need not be approved by both house and senate if they have to step in as governor. Puerto Ricos constitution says a secretary of state has to be approved by both chambers.

The court agreed that the clause was unconstitutional.

Six of its nine judges were appointed by governors from Pierluisis party, the pro-statehood New Progressive party, and three by the main opposition Popular Democratic party. The senator leading the challenge to Pierluisi is in his party.

It was not clear exactly when Vzquez, a 59-year-old former prosecutor, would be sworn in as Puerto Ricos second female governor. She has previously said she is not interested in the job.

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Vzquez became justice secretary in January 2017 and has limited experience leading government agencies. She previously worked as a district attorney for two decades at Puerto Ricos justice department, handling domestic and sexual abuse cases, and in 2010 was appointed director of the Office for Womens Rights.

Some critics say that as justice secretary she was not aggressive enough in pursuing corruption investigations involving members of her New Progressive party, and that she did not prioritize gender violence cases.

Last November, the Office of Government Ethics said it had received a complaint about possible ethical violations involving Vzquez, who was accused of intervening in a case involving a suspect charged with stealing government property at a home where Vzquezs daughter lived.

Vzquez appeared in court to face charges including two violations of a government ethics law. In December a judge found there was no evidence to arrest her.

Rossells resignation followed nearly two weeks of protests amid anger over corruption, mismanagement of funds and a leaked obscenity-laced chat in which he and 11 other men including government officials mocked women, gay people and victims of Hurricane Maria, among others.

Original Article : HERE ;

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