New Puerto Rican governor nominee resists taking office

With the scheduled resignation of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello, the government is scrambling to appoint a successor. But the current nominee, Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez, says she doesn't want the job.

Carlos Giusti/AP
Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez answers questions in San Juan, on January 16, 2018. Ms. Vázquez is set to assume the governorship of Puerto Rico following the resignation of Governor Rossello.

The woman who is supposed to replace Puerto Rico's embattled governor announced Sunday that she doesn't want the job as the U.S. territory reels from political crisis.

Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez said in a Twitter post that she hopes Gov. Ricardo Rosselló will appoint a secretary of state before resigning Aug. 2 as planned.

Former Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín would have been next in line as governor, according to the U.S. territory's constitution. But he is one of more than a dozen officials who have resigned in recent weeks since someone leaked an obscenity-laced chat in which Mr. Rosselló and close advisers insulted people including women and victims of Hurricane Maria.

Mr. Rosselló on Wednesday announced that he would step down following nearly two weeks of massive protests amid anger over the chat, corruption charges against several former government officials and a 13-year recession. 

Mr. Rosselló became the first governor to resign in the modern history of Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 3.2 million American citizens. He is more than halfway through his four-year term.

Mr. Marín's resignation had left Ms. Vázquez as next in line to be governor. But she said she has already told Mr. Rosselló about her wishes not to get the job, creating a chaotic scenario about who will be Puerto Rico's next leader.

If Mr. Rosselló's choice for a secretary of state is not approved by the island's House and Senate, Puerto Rico's law dictates the treasury secretary would be next in line if the justice secretary doesn't become governor. But current Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés is too young at 31 years old. The constitution dictates the person would have to be at least 35, so that would leave interim Education Secretary Eligio Hernández next in line. He replaced former education secretary Julia Keleher, who resigned in April and was arrested July 10 on federal corruption charges. She has pleaded not guilty.

"This is crazy," political expert Mario Negrón Portillo said in a phone interview on Sunday. "We have no idea what's even going to happen tomorrow. Societies cannot live with this type of uncertainty."

Ms. Vázquez's comments came less than an hour after Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira resigned.

"There were many challenges that we had to face together as Puerto Ricans, although sometimes we differed," he said. "The work of each one of us must continue with the welfare of our island and its people as its north."

The announcement comes a day before Puerto Ricans planned another march, this time against Ms. Vázquez, who is accused of not ordering an investigation into the alleged mismanagement of supplies for hurricane victims, among other things.

Ms. Vázquez said on Friday that there is a lot of misinformation but that she cannot speak publicly about certain cases.

"The vicious attacks on my personal and professional integrity continue," she said. "The desire and agenda of some to try to undermine my credibility at this moment of transcendental importance to Puerto Rico and to destabilize the governmental order is evident."

A spokeswoman for Ms. Vázquez did not immediately return a message for comment on Sunday.

Aimara Pérez, a drafter who participated in some of the most recent marches, said she did not want Ms. Vázquez as governor.

"We're going to keep protesting," she said. "It's not going to stop. If there is evidence of corruption, the people are going to push ahead without fear, and we're going to get rid of them all."

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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