Puerto Rico’s outgoing governor Ricardo Rossello, who will step down this week following massive street protests, on Wednesday named the man who will succeed him and finish up his term.
Rossello, who officially leaves the governor’s office on Friday, nominated Pedro Pierluisi, a member of his New Progressive Party (PNP), as secretary of state, lining him up to take his place until the next elections in November 2020.
While Puerto Ricans are delighted at Rossello’s departure, many wanted completely new leadership for the territory, making a backlash against Pierluisi’s nomination likely.
Pierluisi ran against Rossello in primary elections in 2016 after being appointed to represent the U.S. island territory in Congress in Washington D.C.
“After much analysis and taking into account the best interests of our people, I have selected Mr. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to fill the secretary of state vacancy,” Rossello said in a statement, adding that he would call a special meeting of the legislative assembly on Thursday to confirm the nominee.
The previous secretary of state quit on July 13 after text chat comments leaked showing the island’s leadership mocking gays, women and victims of 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria. The people in on these chats included Rossello.
The official next in line to be governor, Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez, said she did not want the job. So Rossello had to nominate someone.
Three days before the release of the chats, prosecutors charged six former government officials with embezzling $15 million in hurricane reconstruction money.
Though the scandals were the catalysts of the protests, the mass-demonstrations became something larger, as many came to see them as being part of a “revolution” to end corruption and bussiness-as-usual in the island’s politcal system.
The Caribbean island is a U.S. territory and its 3.2 million residents are citizens. It has a representative in Washington but has no voting powers in Congress. The PNP wants the island to become the 51st state of the U.S.
Rossello announced his resignation last Wednesday as members of his own party, celebrities from the island and tens of thousands of ordinary Puerto Ricans called on him to go.