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Puerto Rico Breakdown in a Really Small Nutshell

Updated: Aug 12, 2019 21:47
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In case you’ve been wondering what the hell is going on in Puerto Rico and are too afraid to ask for fear of seeming ignorant, we’ve got you covered. It’s okay.

We’re bombarded without a lot of information every day, and it’s been a heavy couple of weeks — nobody has the resources to learn up on every important matter in real time. But what’s happening in Puerto Rico is important. It’s our backyard, even if there is a bunch of water between us.

First, just the basics. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens living in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, a self-governing U.S. territory. It’s people vote in primaries but not in general presidential elections. The island’s population of more 3 million are living through a financial crisis and the aftermath of a devastating hurricane.

But, news today out of the island is focused on the governors.

Three Governors, One Week

Ricardo Rosselló

Rosselló, a politician, scientist and businessman, took office in 2017 as part of the New Progressive Party. A Telegram chat between he and his staff was made public in July and backlash over the content stirred up weeks of protests of up to 500,000 people. The people of Puerto Rico disapproved of the discussions about social media internet troll networks, death threats, homophobic slurs and misogyny exposed.

Rosselló held out for a while, vowing to complete his term, but eventually succumbed to the pressure and resigned Aug. 2.

Puerto Rican artists Ricky Martin, Residente and Bad Bunny take part in a demonstration demanding Governor Ricardo Rossello’s resignation in San Juan. (Photo by Eric Rojas/AFP)

Pedro Pierluisi

Pierluisi was named secretary of state under disgraced Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, which placed him next in line for the governor’s seat. He was sworn in the same day Rosselló stepped down. However, the island’s Supreme Court determined that Pierluisi’s ascendance was invalid because he had not been confirmed as secretary by both legislature chambers. Pierluisi, also of the New Progressive Party, was legally forced to step down with just five days on the job.

Wanda Vázquez Garced

Vázquez was the next legitimate successor as secretary of justice and accepted her assumed role as the next governor of Puerto Rico Wednesday. But things aren’t quite shiny for the newest leader either. The people tend to see her as aligned with Rosselló and loyal to the pro-statehood New Progressive Party all three recent governors have belonged to. It is widely believed protesters will quickly turn their ire toward Vázquez.

Of course, this is just the basic background for some of the headlines you’re seeing in the news today. This piece doesn’t even attempt to get into the layers and complexities of party infighting, citizen’s grievances and the many different approaches to rebuilding being debated. Like any other place, Puerto Rico comes with a rich history of resistance, struggle and pride that would take years to truly explore and dare to understand, and it would be time well spent. But for now, at least you’ll have clue about what’s going right now, today.

Because, again, Puerto Rico is our backyard and Puerto Ricans are our people too.


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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.