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Lawmakers concerned about a lack of finality to Rosselló’s resignation

By on July 25, 2019

Credibility, erratic behavior and murky protocol add to doubts

SAN JUAN ­­– The decision of the majority New Progressive Party (NPP) in the House of Representatives to end the impeachment of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló left Popular Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers and Puerto Rican Independence Party Rep. Denis Márquez outraged.

Besides the impeachment issue, is the matter of the gubernatorial succession. Given that the governor’s resignation will be official Aug. 2, and he has yet to name a replacement for secretary of State when Luis Rivera resigned, the next in line to take over the governor’s office would be Justice Secretary Wanda Vázquez. 

However, House Majority Leader Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló said that it is still possible for Rosselló to name a secretary of State. Minority Leader Rafael “Tatito” Hernández also spoke about the issue, arguing that the governor should select a “person of consensus” to fill the vacancy, thus be who serves as governor for the remaining 17 months of this electoral term.

The House PDP caucus flanks Minority Leader Rafael “Tatito” Hernández, center, as he speaks to the media. (María Soledad Dávila Calero/CB)

The main argument for continuing the impeachment process centers around the lack of finality perceived in Rosselló’s resignation letter, as at no point does he state his resignation is “irrevocable” or “final and firm.” Making matters more complicated is the fact impeachment proceedings are unprecedented on the island, with many elements to figure out and organize, and “it’s better to have this type of process ready [and not need it], than need it and not have it,” said Márquez alluding to the common adage.

For his part, Rodríguez Aguiló was not worried about the lack of stronger or more definitive language in the resignation letter because he is confident that if Rosselló backtracks “10 minutes afterward, what’s going to happen is we [the House] will self-convoke to officially start the impeachment of the governor.”

Both Márquez, and PDP Rep. Luis Vega Ramos said the importance of continuing with the impeachment process, rather than suspending it with the possibility of having to resume it later, is there are logistical efforts that need to be untangled.

“Nothing of what this letter said makes academic what we have to do today, which was to receive the letter, wait until August 2 at five in the afternoon and in the meantime constitute the special commission on impeachment, appointing its members and starting the process,” Vega Ramos said after House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez ended the session.

Méndez concluded the 7-minute session, in which the governor’s resignation was read, saying that now that is was “duly received…this House of Representatives…will ends its work after addressing the corresponding issue for which we were cited. However, making it clear that we can self-convoke to address those issues that are necessary for the wellbeing of the people of Puerto Rico.”

Although Márquez said the possibility of Rosselló withdrawing his resignation was unlikely, he mentioned that Puerto Rico’s Political Code does not address a governor’s resignation and called Rosselló’s behavior erratic.

Rodríguez Aguiló said that for him and his colleagues Rosselló has no credibility but that the letter is enough because, contrary to the video message the governor streamed Wednesday evening, the letter does constitute official protocol.

Regarding the possibility of Rosselló naming a secretary of State, Rodríguez Aguiló, said the Legislature would be open to a last-minute appointment but that it would be wise for Rosselló to seek advice from both legislative chambers.

“The governor, if he is going to act responsibly for one last time with Puerto Rico, he has to consult with the House of Representatives, he has to consult with the Senate of Puerto Ricos to name [the Secretary of State],” Rodríguez Aguiló said.

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