(SAN JUAN, P.R.) — Ricardo Rossello, the embattled governor of Puerto Rico who was forced to step down amid a political scandal and mass protests, officially resigned as the island’s leader at 5 p.m. Friday.
Pedro Pierluisi will be sworn in as the next governor of the island, Rossello said in a statement late Friday afternoon.
The future of the position and who would hold it in the long run remained shrouded in uncertainty in the minutes leading up to Rossello’s promised resignation.
Pierluisi was sworn in as secretary of state Wednesday, making him next in line of succession — though he has not been confirmed by Puerto Rico’s Senate.
The House of Representatives confirmed his nomination Friday, but the Senate will not hold a vote until Monday afternoon.
Several legislators have expressed concern over Pierluisi, alleging a conflict of interest because he worked for a law firm that represents a controversial federal control board overseeing the island’s finances.
Wanda Vazquez, the secretary of justice who would become governor if Pierluisi did not receive the votes from the legislators, has been the subject of heavy criticism since it became clear she could hold the position.
Some say she has not taken action in investigating corruption involving members of her and Rossello’s party, the New Progressive Party.
Vazquez, a former prosecutor, faced multiple charges but a judge in Puerto Rico ultimately determined there was not enough evidence to arrest her.
Vazquez has also made it clear she does not want the governor’s job.
“I reiterate, I have no interest in occupying the position of Governor,” Vasquez wrote in a tweet in Spanish on Sunday. Yet, she tweeted, “The constitution dictates it.”
She has since clarified that she’s ready to take over the governorship if Pierluisi isn’t confirmed.
The island was thrown into disarray after leaked text messages allegedly showed Rossello and his staff making homophobic, misogynistic and sexist comments against opponents and critics, as well as mocking victims of 2017’s Hurricane Maria.
In Rossello’s resignation speech, he cited the accomplishments of his administration when it comes to infrastructure, corruption reforms and LGBTQ rights. He also noted the challenges the island faced after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“I hope that this decision will serve as a call for citizen reconciliation that we need so much to move forward with the welfare of Puerto Rico as its north,” Rossello said. “I complete my mandate and the most I desire is peace and progress.”
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