After 11 days of massive protests, Puerto Rico‘s Governor Ricardo Rossello announced via a video message on July 24, that he would be stepping down from his post. In the pre-taped speech Rossello said, “I was ready to face any challenge, fully understanding that I would prevail in the face of any accusation or legal process. Despite having the mandate of the people who democratically elected me, today I feel that continuing in this position would impede the success of the past from lasting.”
While tens of thousands of people rejoiced outside the governor’s mansion, and #RickyRenuncio became the No. 1 trend on Twitter, which translates to “Ricky quit,” another hashtag quickly followed, #WandaRenuncia — referencing Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez, who’s next in line to take over as governor after Rossello officially leaves his post on August 2.
The people of the U.S. territory are thrilled to see Rossello leave, but it appears that their battle is only half done. A second round of protests are expected to keep from Vazquez for usurping Rossello’s post, stemming from the fact that the 59-year-old New Progressive Party member has appeared to support Rossello’s administration for the past two years, in addition to being embroiled in her own controversies since taking office in 2017.
Here’s what you need to know about Wanda Vazquez….
1. Vazquez is Set to Take Over Because There Is No Secretary of State
Due to the ongoing controversies that has plagued Rossello’s administration, numerous key people have been kicked out or stepped down, including Luis Rivera Marin, who would’ve been next in line as Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State.
However, after the U.S. territory’s Center for Investigative Journalism, known as CPI, leaked nearly 900 damning text messages between Rossello and his administration, in which they joked about Hurricane Maria victims, insulted women, and made homophobic slurs, Marin quickly resigned.
Marin was part of Rossello’s inner circle that was involved in the leaked texts, which is why Vazquez is assumed to be named governor.
2. She’s Worked in Public Service for Over 30 Years
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Vazquez started her political career as the lawyer for the Housing Department in the 1980s, before becoming a district attorney in the Puerto Rico Department of Justice. For over two decades, she specialized in cases that dealt with domestic and sexual abuse.
In 2010, Vazquez was appointed by Rossello as the head of the Office of Women’s Rights, however, according to Telemundo, numerous women’s advocacy groups have criticized her for doing a poor job during her seven years at the post. Saadi Rosado of the Feminist Collective, an advocacy group told The New York Times, “A lot of feminist groups were very critical of Wanda Vázquez. She failed to address gender violence issues and was another piece of government bureaucracy.”
While she was supposed to be the head of the department for 10 years, she left early to begin her new role as Justice Secretary in 2017, a role also appointed by Rossello. Vazquez chose not to investigate the leaked texts, and instead called for “good and calm” from protestors.
In a statement made to El Vocero she said, “We recognize the right of all citizens in a democracy to exercise the right to free expression. However, this right must be exercised with prudence, with a high sense of citizen awareness and respect for others.We must all remember that we live in a country of law and order, so the Department of Justice will keep an eye on any incident that constitutes a crime.”
3. Vazquez Faced Criminal Charges in 2018 Involving Her Daughter
The Justice Secretary was embroiled in controversy of her own after ethical complaints were filed by the Office of the Independent Prosecutor in November 2018. She was accused of improperly intervening on behalf of her daughter and son-in-law amidst a housing dispute, and was the first Secretary of Justice in Puerto Rico’s history to face criminal charges.
Vazquez was suspended from her post, but the investigation was later dropped and she was able to return to her post. Judge Yazdel Ramos Colon cleared her of all ethical violations and said there was no sufficient evidence to prove otherwise.
4. Her Husband Jorge is a Superior Judge
Vazquez’s husband Jorge Diaz Reveron was also questioned for allegedly intervening with a potential witness in the failed case against his wife, and was removed from the Court of First Instance of Caguas, where he presided. However, he too was also cleared of any ethical violations.
5. There’s a Large Contingency Who Do Not Want Her as Governor
While Vazquez said in a statement that Rossello “made the right decision, for the good of both his family and for Puerto Rico. Once the resignation is official, if necessary, I will assume the historic mandate,” the people of Puerto Rico appear to want to prevent her from taking over the high political post. Fired up by the success of getting Rossello to step down, the protest fervor didn’t die down, citizen then switched their ire toward Vazquez.
Protestors online made #WandaRenuncia a top trend in America, and Twitter users such as Fico, wanted to make sure their reasons why they do not want her as governor were clear. It’s not because she’s a woman, it’s because she’s only abetted Rossello’s administration during her political career.
The leaked texts were just the last straw for the citizens of Puerto Rico. Since Rossello took office in 2017, his administration has declared bankruptcy and was blamed for mishandling the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. And only a few days earlier, Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s former education secretary, along with five others were charged with fraud, accused of funneling $15.5 million of federal funding to politically connected contractors.