SAN JUAN – Pedro Pierluisi vowed to attain statehood for Puerto Rico and struggle in opposition to poverty, corruption and COVID-19 after he was sworn in Saturday because the U.S. territory’s new governor.
Pierluisi, a Democrat who beforehand served as Puerto Rico’s consultant in Congress for eight years, additionally promised to prioritize training, elevate the federal government out of chapter and alleviate a deep financial disaster as chief of the pro-statehood New Progressive Celebration.
“I’ve listened to our folks and acknowledged the wants for higher governance,” he stated in a bilingual speech with a powerful conciliatory tone. “I would like everybody to battle our frequent enemies.”
Saturday’s ceremony marked the tip of a chaotic four-year interval wherein Puerto Rico had three governors, together with Pierluisi himself briefly after former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló stepped down final 12 months following large road protests.
Pierluisi, 61, inherits a stagnant financial system, a divided legislature, a billion-dollar public debt restructuring and a politically fractured U.S. territory hit arduous by the pandemic because it nonetheless struggles to get better from hurricanes and earthquakes.
“Some very tough years await him and the island,” stated political analyst Mario Negrón. “The financial system is in crucial situation, and though federal funds are on their method, folks overlook that the debt must be paid beginning in February.”
Pierluisi, who is understood for his conciliatory nature, will probably be main a disgruntled and exhausted inhabitants after acquiring the bottom variety of votes of any governor in Puerto Rico’s historical past. He obtained almost 33% of votes in contrast with almost 32% obtained by Carlos Delgado of the Well-liked Democratic Celebration, marking the primary time both occasion failed to achieve 40% of votes.
New and longtime minority political events gained floor throughout November’s election, with no clear majority rising within the island’s legislature, that means Pierluisi must search consensus with members of 4 different events, Negrón stated.
“I’d wish to suppose that folks will develop throughout this second of political disaster,” he stated. “Expertise has taught me all of the opposite.”
Throughout November’s election, voters additionally participated in a non-binding referendum that requested, “Ought to Puerto Rico be admitted instantly into the union as a state?” Greater than 52% of voters permitted, however any adjustments to the island’s political standing want approval from U.S. Congress. It’s the island’s sixth such referendum.
President-elect Joe Biden has promised to work with native authorities officers who assist a wide range of political outcomes for Puerto Rico to “provoke a simply and binding course of” for the island to find out its personal standing.
Regardless of Pierluisi’s seek for statehood, political analyst Eduardo Villanueva stated the brand new governor and his occasion face a elementary drawback: they haven’t stated what sort of contributions, together with financial ones, Puerto Rico would make if it turns into a state.
Villanueva additionally famous that Pierluisi’s agenda could possibly be restricted by the powers of a federal management board that oversees the island’s funds: “One doesn’t have the final phrase and can’t set up priorities.”
Congress created the board in 2016, a 12 months after Puerto Rico declared its greater than $70 billion public debt unpayable, an quantity collected partly by earlier administrations borrowing cash to cowl price range deficits.
Pierluisi takes over from Gov. Wanda Vázquez, whom the island’s Supreme Court docket ordered be appointed governor in August 2019 after Rosselló resigned. On the time she was the island’s justice secretary, however since there was no secretary of state on the time, Puerto Rico’s structure dictated she assume the governorship. Vázquez later misplaced in opposition to Pierluisi throughout a chaotic main in early August that needed to be held a second time as a result of ballots didn’t make it to voting facilities on time.
Saturday’s open air occasion was fiercely criticized by many Puerto Ricans indignant that Pierluisi invited some 400 friends regardless of the pandemic and amid measures that prohibit folks from gathering in massive teams or going to the seashore except they’re exercising.
Pierluisi defended his actions, noting that face masks had been obligatory and that everybody attending needed to submit a unfavourable COVID-19 take a look at. Unbiased well being specialists, nevertheless, warned the occasion nonetheless posed a threat.
The island of three.2 million folks has reported greater than 127,000 confirmed and possible COVID-19 instances and greater than 1,500 deaths.
A brand new legislature additionally was sworn in on Saturday, marking the primary time that almost all of Puerto Rico’s Senate is feminine.
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