Political Chaos Returns To Puerto Rico As The Unelected Governor Faces Investigations And Calls For Her Resignation
Puerto Rico’s government is once again in the headlines, as the governor faces accusations of obstruction of justice. In just the latest in a string of crises – both natural and man made – the governor is fighting back claims that she fired an official who was investigating her failed response to a series of earthquakes that recently struck the island.
Gov. Vasquez has denied any wrongdoing but protests are already forming across the island, asking for her resignation.
Puerto Rico once again faces political turmoil as the island’s unelected governor is under investigation.
Puerto Rico’s Governor Wanda Vasquez is facing allegations that she obstructed justice and calls from the main opposition party for a legislative probe and a possible impeachment process. All of this stems from a report from the newspaper El Nuevo Día, which said that hours before being fired by Vazquez, the now former Justice Secretary Dennise Longo had recommended the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to look into the governor and her close associates.
According to the paper, Longo made a recommendation to the island’s Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor’s Panel to look into alleged irregularities in how aid earmarked to January’s earthquake relief efforts were distributed.
According to the Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism, that recommendation was what caused the governor to ask for the justice minister’s resignation.
Since she appears to have fired someone who was looking into her administration, several members of the opposition party are leveling obstruction claims against Vasquez. It wasn’t immediately clear if Rep. Johnny Méndez, leader of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, who is a member of Ms. Vázquez’s party, would grant permission for such an investigation. He tweeted Tuesday that he would listen to the governor’s news conference before making any decisions.
“Our people demand total and absolute transparency in the public function. Puerto Rico doesn’t deserve less than that,” Mr. Méndez wrote.
The governor said she is ready to face justice if the case involving emergency supplies has merit. “I have nothing to fear,” Ms. Vázquez said during a lengthy news conference.
She’s accused of firing a justice official who was investigation her cabinet.
The fired official, Dennise Longo, issued a statement saying the governor and other officials are targets of an investigation that began earlier this year involving the alleged mismanagement of supplies slated for Puerto Ricans affected by a series of strong earthquakes. Ms. Longo, who didn’t provide any details of the case, said she had referred that matter for investigation the day she was forced out.
Ms. Vázquez denied Ms. Longo was removed in retribution for the probe, saying that she didn’t know she was being investigated. She said that Ms. Longo was asked to quit because of purported interference in an unrelated federal probe into possible Medicaid fraud.
The new political crisis comes months after the island erupted into protests that forced the previous governor to resign.
Before Ms. Vasquez became governor, she served as the island’s justice secretary in the administration of Ricardo Rosselló. Rosselló faced several scandals of his own – the failed response to Hurricane Maria and a texting scandal that revealed sexist and homophobic messages from his administration.
Giant protests occurred around the island for weeks, demanding #RickyRenuncio. Following Rosselló’s resignation, few administration members wanted th role as governor – in fact, Vasquez herself said she didn’t want the job – but the island’s Supreme Court ruled that she should be sworn in as new governor.
This current political crisis is just the latest in a string of major crises that have rocked the territory.
Puerto Rico has long faced political turmoil and natural disasters. However, much of the current crises can be traced back to the failed response to Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island. Then, earlier this year, the island was struck by a series of major earthquakes that left much of the island in rubble.
A week later, a 43,000 square foot warehouse in the southern city of Ponce was discovered filled with filled with supplies, including thousands of cases of water, believed to have been from when Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017. Vazquez quickly fired the island’s director of emergency management and called for an investigation. Food, water, diapers, baby formula, cots and tarps were all stored at the warehouse.
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