- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Outgoing Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced Wednesday that he has nominated Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia as Secretary of State — and his presumed successor — although it was unclear whether the selection would ease the island’s political crisis.

Mr. Rossello, who announced last week he would resign after 12 days of massive protests sparked by a profane chat conversation, said he had named Mr. Pierluisi to fill the Secretary of State vacancy. Under Puerto Rico law, the Secretary of State is next in line to become governor.

“After much analysis and taking the best interests of our people into account, I have selected Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia for the position of Secretary of State. To tend to this matter, I will call for a special session tomorrow,” Mr. Rossello tweeted.

The nomination would need to be approved by the Legislative Assembly, which has little time to act before Mr. Rossello leaves office as planned on Friday.

A lawyer, Mr. Pierluisi, 60, served in Congress from 2009-17 as the lone Puerto Rico representative, and also as Secretary of Justice under former Gov. Pedro Rossello, father of Ricardo Rossello.

“I have listened to the people’s messages, their demonstrations, their demands and their concerns,” said Mr. Pierluisi in a Wednesday statement. “And in this new challenge in my life, I will only answer to the people.”

The next in line to become governor was Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez, but she took herself out of the running amid opposition from the protest crowds, which reportedly swelled last week to 500,000.

Puerto Ricans took to the streets after the release of a lengthy chat on the Telegram app between 11 government officials, including Mr. Rossello, in which they talked politics on government time and made crude comments about women and gay men, including Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin.

The bankrupt island, which has amassed a $120 billion debt, has also struggled with corruption scandals and the recovery effort after being hit in 2017 by Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma.

President Trump has criticized Puerto Rico’s handling of billions in U.S. relief, calling Mr. Rossello a “terrible” governor and saying he should resign.

“You have totally grossly incompetent leadership at the top of Puerto Rico,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House in July 22 remarks. “The leadership is corrupt and incompetent.”

This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

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