Political Challenges of Succession in a U.S. Territory

August 9, 2019

Good Morning! In this morning’s eBlog, we consider the ongoing, roiling governance challenges in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, where, yesterday, in the wake of a Puerto Rico Supreme Court decision, Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice Wanda Vázquez-Garced was sworn in as the U.S. territory’s third Governor in less than one week.

Jenniffer González, whom the New Progressive Party legislative leadership wants to serve as Governor through the rest of the current term, describes herself on her official website as a “lifelong Republican activist for Puerto Rican statehood.” Now, if acting Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced, in agreement with the legislative leadership, decides to nominate her as Secretary of State and resign, Ms.González would become Governor—not necessarily a tantalizing prospect, as she would confront significant responsibilities, such as restoring the island’s credibility, navigating President Trump’s discriminatory storms, and trying to restore trust in government. Three years ago, she ran on the ticket with former Governor Ricardo Rossello Nevares. After winning with 48.8 percent of votes-some 23,500 more than Popular candidate Héctor Ferrer Ríos, Ms. González became the first woman to hold the office of Washington Resident Commissioner. She was sworn in on January 3, 2017. Ms. González describes herself as a “a product of the Puerto Rico public schools:” she has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Puerto Rico and holds a Juris Doctorand Master of Laws degree (LL.M.) from the Puerto Rico Interamerican University Law School. She has brought that to bear on a long leadership stint, with her elected public servive commencing 17 years ago, when she won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election. She served as Speaker of the Puerto Rico House from 2009-2012; she currently serves as the Chair of the Puerto Rico GOP.

In the wake of the leak of a profane, offensive chat between former Gov. Rosselló Nevares and his top aides, targetting different sectors, she asked for his resignation as president of the PNP party—and then demanded his resignation as Governor. In the U.S. House of Representatives, she currently serves as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, as well as on the Science and Technology and Transportation Committees.

But she also had to deal with President Trump’s outbursts and insults to Puerto Rico and its leadership. Nevertheless, at a time when the federal Government appears to be imposing more restrictions on the U.S. territory’s access to emergency funds, former Puerto Rico Secretary of State and former Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth McClintock believe her ties to the Republican Party in Washibngton “may benefit Puerto Rico.”

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