Puerto Rico swears in third governor in less than a week

The move is set to deepen even further territory's political crisis

Wanda Vazquez, former Secretary of Justice, is sworn in as Governor of Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico's Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez Garced was sworn in Wednesday afternoon as the third governor that the financially and politically troubled island has had in less than a week. The move came just a few hours after the highest court declared unconstitutional the governorship of disgraced former Gov. Ricardo Rossello's handpicked successor - a move certain to prolong the political crisis on the US territory.

The unanimous decision by the Supreme Court threw out last week's swearing in of attorney Pedro Pierluisi on grounds he had not been confirmed as secretary of state by both chambers of the legislature. Pierluisi was sworn in as governor last Friday following confirmation of his secretary of state appointment by only the Puerto Rico House of Representatives. On Sunday, however, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz filed a lawsuit claiming his chamber’s advice and consent duty under the island’s constitution was usurped and Pierluisi should be removed from office.

Pierluisi had argued that under a 2005 law, his appointment did not require confirmation because the legislature was not in session at the time. But the court on Wednesday declared as unconstitutional the part of the law that allowed Pierluisi to be in a position to take over as governor without Senate confirmation.

"In light of the decision by the Puerto Rico Supreme Court, I must step aside and support the Secretary of Justice of Puerto Rico," he said shortly before Vazquez took the oath.

"This is a time when we must all unite for Puerto Rico, leaving behind any partisan, ideological or personal agendas. In other words, this is a time for unity of purpose for the benefit of Puerto Rico, until our people have the opportunity to choose their future leaders in next year's elections," Pierluisi added.

The affair highlights the fierce infighting within Rossello's pro-statehood New Progressive Party and threatens to deepen the political turmoil on the island, where protesters have voiced opposition to both Vazquez and Pierluisi. Some pundits even suggested that Vazquez will take the oath only to name a new secretary of state who would then take over as governor. 

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