© 2022 WYPR
20th Anniversary Background
WYPR 88.1 FM Baltimore WYPF 88.1 FM Frederick WYPO 106.9 FM Ocean City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Puerto Rico's Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez Sworn In As Governor

Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez arrives at the Supreme Court, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before she was sworn in as governor early Wednesday evening.
Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez arrives at the Supreme Court, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before she was sworn in as governor early Wednesday evening.

Updated at 5:37 p.m. ET

Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez has been sworn in as governor of Puerto Rico, ending for now the latest dizzying developments in Puerto Rican politics.

Pedro Pierluisi, who was just sworn in as governor on Friday, was removed from office because the commonwealth's Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that his swearing-in was unconstitutional.

Vázquez was the next official in the constitutional line of succession.

Ordering Pierluisi to step aside, Judge Rafael Martínez Torres said a 2005 legislative amendment to the law of succession, called Law 7 violates the commonwealth's constitution. The measure said the secretary of state was allowed to succeed to the governor's office, even if he or she had been approved by only one chamber of Puerto Rico's congress.

As a result, the Supreme Court voided Pierluisi's swearing-in, because he was not properly confirmed as secretary of state by both Puerto Rico's Senate and House. Only the House of Representatives weighed in.

Pierluisi was nominated to be secretary of state by the former governor, Ricardo Rosselló, who resigned last Friday amid public protests and a scandal over a thread of homophobic and misogynistic texts.

Pierluisi said previously that he would respect whatever ruling the Supreme Court made.

The island's constitution called for the secretary of state to be first in the line of gubernatorial succession. The next person in line was Wanda Vázquez, who stated in late July that she had "no interest" in assuming the post.

But on Wednesday, Vázquez issued a statement saying she will comply with the order of succession.

"Puerto Rico needs certainty and stability," she wrote, adding that she is acting out of "deference and respect" to the Supreme Court's ruling.

Puerto Rico's resident commissioner, Jenniffer González, who represents the island in the U.S. Congress, similarly echoed calls for stability.

"It is important to restore credibility in Washington by showing that we are able to govern ourselves according to our own Constitution," González said in a statement.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: August 7, 2019 at 12:00 AM EDT
In a previous version of the summary for this story that appeared on the homepage, Pedro Pierluisi's last name was misspelled as Perluisi.
Vanessa Romo is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers breaking news on a wide range of topics, weighing in daily on everything from immigration and the treatment of migrant children, to a war-crimes trial where a witness claimed he was the actual killer, to an alleged sex cult. She has also covered the occasional cat-clinging-to-the-hood-of-a-car story.
Richard Gonzales is NPR's National Desk Correspondent based in San Francisco. Along with covering the daily news of region, Gonzales' reporting has included medical marijuana, gay marriage, drive-by shootings, Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, the U.S. Ninth Circuit, the California State Supreme Court and any other legal, political, or social development occurring in Northern California relevant to the rest of the country.