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Puerto Ricans wake up to a new governor sworn in behind close doors

Pedro Pierluisi holds a press conference after being sworn in as Governor of Puerto Rico in San Juan, Puerto Rico on, August 2, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

After weeks of unrest, Puerto Ricans woke up on Saturday to a new governor but it's unclear how long Pedro Pierluisi will hold the post since he was sworn in even though his appointment had not yet gone before the island's Senate for a confirmation vote.

At his first news conference as leader of the bankrupt US territory, Pierluisi a lawyer who has served as both resident commissioner and justice secretary for the island said Puerto Rico's Senate would meet on Wednesday to vote on whether to confirm his position as governor. Pierluisi is controversial because, until now, he was a lawyer who advised the despised, federally created board supervising Puerto Rico's bankruptcy.

Puerto Rican retiree Hector Santiago said practically speaking, someone needs to do the job but he is hesitant to throw his full support behind Pierluisi.

"Well someone has to do the work. Someone has to assume the responsibility that the country has delegated. I don't know what's going to happen but the thing is it looks so much like what we had, at what we've had before, that we must be attentive and vigilant to ensure that the same sad, ugly, disastrous painful practices aren't repeated," Santiago said.

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, who calls Pierluisi "the lawyer for Puerto Rico's number one enemy," termed the controversial move "unethical and illegal."

The island's leading newspaper El Nuevo Dia subsequently reported that Schatz had rescheduled the session to vote on the appointment for Monday.

Pierluisi's swearing in capped off a week of political chaos in Puerto Rico after Ricardo Rossello said he would resign over offensive chat messages that drew around a third of the island's 3.2 million people to the streets in protest.

The publication of the messages unleashed anger building for years in Puerto Rico over the island's painful bankruptcy process, ineffective hurricane recovery efforts and corruption scandals linked to a string of past governors, including Rossello's father.

The departure of Rossello began a succession battle, with leaders of his ruling party opposing Pierluisi on grounds his work for the control board, known for targeting pensions and bonuses, posed conflicts of interest.

Puerto Rico's House of Representatives on Friday approved Pierluisi as secretary of state.

Until an appointment was confirmed by both chambers, Schatz and other senators said the next in line for governor, under law, was Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez.

(Source: Reuters)

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