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Puerto Rico in Political Crisis: Senate Sues over Appointment of New Governor Pierluisi

StoryAugust 06, 2019
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The political crisis in Puerto Rico continues as its Senate has sued against the appointment of Pedro Pierluisi as the new governor following Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation last week. Pierluisi was sworn in despite not having been confirmed by the Puerto Rican Senate. But he argues that he is in the line of succession for governor after being nominated as secretary of state by Rosselló last week. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz also sued after his swearing-in. We speak with Democracy Now! co-host Juan González for his analysis of the current political climate.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we end today’s show looking at the political crisis in Puerto Rico. On Monday, the Puerto Rican Senate sued to block the appointment of Pedro Pierluisi as the new governor following Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation last week. Juan, if you can explain the latest and what this means, new governor in Puerto Rico?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, yes. Well, at 5 p.m. Friday, Governor Rosselló officially resigned. And just before that, he named a successor. He claimed a successor, Pedro Pierluisi, who was not the secretary of state as per the Constitution, but he named him secretary of state to be able to succeed him. But only the House, the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico, voted by one vote, by a one-vote majority, to approve Pierluisi. But the Senate did not on Friday, and postponed 'til Monday, ’til yesterday, meeting on the issue. And that, of course, raises a constitutional crisis in Puerto Rico without precedent, because: Is this named governor the real governor? Is he legally able to hold office? Well, Pierluisi spent the whole weekend meeting with agency heads and other government officials but did not make any public appearances. And he's insisting that he is the governor. The Senate then met on Monday and did not vote. They basically said —

AMY GOODMAN: They have to approve the governor?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, some say they do. And they’re claiming they do, that they have to — no, they have to approve Pierluisi as the secretary of state, which they have not done. So they’re claiming that he’s not officially the governor, and they have now gone to court, to the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, which has told both sides to come in with their legal briefs by noon today, so that the Supreme Court will then look at the briefs and supposedly make a decision within the next few days. But in the meantime, virtually few legal scholars or the media are recognizing Pierluisi as the governor, and you have this situation where the Senate does not recognize him as the governor. So we’re going to have to wait and see what happens.

AMY GOODMAN: And Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, hasn’t she sued?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: She’s filed her own lawsuit, yes. She’s filed her own lawsuit against Pierluisi being named. So, there are two lawsuits, but I think the Supreme Court is hearing the Senate’s lawsuit.

AMY GOODMAN: And who is Pierluisi?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Pierluisi, interestingly enough, is — was the resident commissioner for many years. He’s of the same party of Rosselló. But he’s also the brother-in-law of the chairman of the PROMESA board, the financial control board that is running Puerto Rico. He had a law firm that was representing — that was doing work for the PROMESA board, and he also was a lobbyist for AES Corporation, a Virginia-based company that was polluting Puerto Rico with coal ash from their plant in the southern part of Puerto Rico. So he’s got all kinds of conflicts that make him unlikely to be supported by the majority of people to remain as interim governor.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll continue to follow this and talk about it tomorrow on Democracy Now! To see all our coverage of Puerto Rico, visit democracynow.org.

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