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News > Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico House Approves Pierluisi as Secretary of State

  • Pierluisi during a public hearing of the Commission of Government of the House of Representatives in San Juan.

    Pierluisi during a public hearing of the Commission of Government of the House of Representatives in San Juan. | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 August 2019

The choice of Pierluisi remains controversial as Puerto Rico's Senate has not yet confirmed him as secretary of state, next in line to succeed a resigning governor.

Disgraced Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello announced Friday the lawyer who formerly represented the island in the U.S. Congress will take over when he resigns, following street protests, his alleged involvement in corruption and misogynistic and homophobic text messages.

Puerto Rico: Newly Appointed Secretary of State to Be Rossello’s Replacement

Pedro Pierluisi, who has advised the unpopular federal panel overseeing the U.S. territory's finances, will be sworn in as governor after Rossello's exit, Rossello said in a statement.

The House voted 26 in favor of his nomination and 21 against, with one abstention. The Senate has yet to vote.

In his statement, Rossello said that the vote de facto made Pierluisi his successor without requiring a formal confirmation, referring to the Law 7 voted on July 24, 1952, and upheld in 2005 by the Justice Department.

However, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz sent a statement saying the House vote "deserves total respect from everyone. Now it passes to the Senate. With the greatest sense of responsibility, we will respond. Next Wednesday, the full Senate will attend. That day the matter will be resolved."

Jose Julian Alvarez, a constitutional law professor at the University of Puerto Rico Law School, also contended that Pierluisi's nomination as secretary of state must be confirmed by both Puerto Rico's House and Senate before he could become governor.

Protesters and ruling party leaders including Schatz have rejected Pierluisi as the island’s next governor, saying his work as an attorney for the fiscal control board overseeing the island’s bankruptcy created conflicts of interest.

He is a member of the Democratic Party, former president of Rossello’s so-called 'New Progressive Party' (PNP) and in 1993 was Secretary of Justice to Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Rossello.

In 2015, Pierluisi ran for governor but lost in the primaries of the PNP to Ricardo Rossello. 

A 2016 investigation from the New York Times showed that as Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in the U.S. Congress from 2009 to 2017, Pierluisi saw his family wealth grow immensely.

His wife, Maria Elena Carrion, set up a financial advisory firm that was hired by large Wall Street companies, just 20 days after his election. Carrion’s clients sought to capitalize on Pierluisi’s bills that were related to the island’s financial crisis in regards with a possible federal default.

The New York Times article shows that the bills introduced by Pierluisi would have benefited at least two of the companies that hired his wife for financial advice.

On Tuesday Pierluisi took a leave of absence from Washington law firm O’Neill & Borges, where he works as a corporate and government affairs lawyer, according to his profile page on the company’s website.

Anger has been building for years in Puerto Rico over a series of crises including the island's bankruptcy filing, ineffective recovery efforts after a 2017 hurricane killed more than 3,000 people and corruption scandals linked to governors.

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