New York State

Why Rosselló’s resignation won’t quell Puerto Rico’s anger

The governor’s successor, Wanda Vázquez, is already facing serious resistance.

Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez fields questions from reporters before giving a press conference in January, 2018.

Puerto Rico Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez fields questions from reporters before giving a press conference in January, 2018. Carlos Giusti/AP/Shutterstock

After two weeks of spirited protesting, Puerto Ricans finally managed to eject the island’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló from office – but the fight for a Puerto Rican government that reflects the will of the people is far from over.

Rosselló announced Wednesday evening that he will resign from office on Aug. 2, to be succeeded by Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez – but Vázquez comes with her own share of scandal-laden baggage.

After an administration-wide corruption scandal and the leak of hundreds of offensive private group texts, Puerto Ricans have been calling for the governor to step down, with countless protesters blocking major roadways. After the news of Rosselló’s resignation broke, thousands took to the streets of San Juan to celebrate their victory.

Vázquez is next in line according to the commonwealth’s constitution, since the secretary of state resigned last week amid the administration’s most recent corruption scandal. But Vázquez, a former district attorney – who previously ran Puerto Rico’s office of women’s affairs – is facing pushback from the Puerto Rican population, which is now calling for her resignation. Almost immediately after Rosselló’s announcement, the hashtag #WandaRenuncia began to trend on Twitter. 

Many of the women’s groups Vázquez worked with during her seven years heading the office of women’s affairs feel she failed to address important issues. “A lot of feminist groups were very critical of Wanda Vázquez,” Saadi Rosado of the Feminist Collective told the Times. “She failed to address gender violence issues and was another piece of government bureaucracy.”

Vázquez has also faced criticism for being slow to investigate members of her own political party and faced harsh legal scrutiny last year, after ethical complaints were filed against her by the Office of the Independent Special Prosecutor. In November, it was alleged that Vázquez inappropriately intervened in a housing dispute on behalf of her daughter and son-in-law, according to the Times. The incident proved historic, as it resulted in Vázquez facing criminal charges, making her the first secretary of justice to face such charges. She was suspended from her post, but Roselló quickly reinstated her and she was ultimately cleared.

Vasquez has also been embroiled in an ongoing public skirmish with the president of the Puerto Rican Senate, Thomas Rivera Schatz, who has called for her resignation multiple times over the past year due to the accusations of criminal activity, despite her being cleared.

While the future of Puerto Rico’s administration remains uncertain, the past couple of weeks have demonstrated that the small island’s population is no longer willing to tolerate an administration they don’t approve of.