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News > Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico: Rossello Replacement Being Probed for Corruption

  • Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez

    Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 July 2019

“Wanda (Vazquez) is just more of the same,” said one demonstrator, public transport worker Cesar Garcia. 

Puerto Ricans continue to protest as the role of governor passes from Ricardo Rossello to Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez who was already being investigated for corruption linked to Hurricane Maria aid provisions.

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Three days have passed since Gov. Rossello finally succummed to nearly two weeks of public protests demanding his resignation. Faced with the choice of impeachment or resignation, it took the island's elected leader 24 hours to announce Wednesday night that he will resign Aug. 2.

However, his supposed successor has a record of misconduct herself and is being investigated for having turned a blind eye to possible corruption surrounding relief provisions provided to the island nearly two years ago after Hurricane Maria devasted much of its territory. Allegations read that she failed to execute probes into these suspicious accounts.

Others have noted Vazquez’s close relationship to Rossello who appointed her as secretary of justice in 2017. There's talk she shielded Rossello throughout her tenure.

“What we’re investigating is her alleged denial or refusal to investigate these claims as secretary of justice,” said Puerto Rico’s Executive Director of Government Ethics, Zulma Rosario.

In an interview with NBC, House representative Jose Enrique Melendez stated: “It’s absurd to have Wanda Vázquez as governor. The Justice Department is not operating properly. Corruption is rampant and that’s because of its leader."

Hashtags have taken over Twitter, calling for Vazquez to resign and are warning that Puerto Ricans are “coming for her.”

“We are celebrating that for the first time, a united people removed a governor, giving us hope that we can have a new Puerto Rico,” public transport worker, Cesar Garcia, 42, told local media.

“Wanda is just more of the same,” added Garcia.

Protests against Vazquez are scheduled for Monday at 5:00 p.m. local time outside the Department of Justice in San Juan to demand her resignation from the current post.

The corruption investigation of Vazquez is even more egregious considering the gross mishandling of the clean up and rescue efforts of the 2017 hurricane on parts of the Rossello and mainland Donald Trump administrations. It wasn't until August 2018 that Rossello admitted that an "estimated" 2,975 people died due to the severe storm, raising the number from a prior 64.  

Peaceful demonstrations against Rossello began just after a 889-page document was released by the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) July 13 that revealed the governor was leading a racist, misogynist smear campaign against his political opposition, and even journalists. The official also faced allegations of corruption and mishandling of public funds in his administration.

Puerto Rican officials launched a legal investigation into Russello’s actions and found there were five offenses that constitute grounds for impeachment: four serious offenses, one misdemeanor and the illicitly usage of public resources and services for partisan purposes.

After Rossello made his announcement last week, ex-governor Anibal Acevedo Vila stated: “You have a population that has discovered they have a power they didn’t think they had. Politicians have to be ready to be accountable and transparent because there is strong distrust for the traditional institutions.”

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