Puerto Rico braces for political upheaval involving governor

Wanda Vazquez
FILE – In this Aug. 16, 2019 file photo, Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vazquez speaks during an interview with the Associated Press at the official residence La Fortaleza, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Vazquez announced on Saturday, May 16, 2020, that she will hold a non-binding referendum in November to decide whether Puerto Rico should become a U.S. state.
Associated Press / Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo, File

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico on Tuesday braced for potential political upheaval after the U.S. territory’s governor denied allegations of obstruction of justice while the main opposition party demanded she be investigated and hinted at a possible impeachment process.

In a brief statement issued late Monday, Gov. Wanda Vazquez for the first time acknowledged an alleged investigation that the island’s Department of Justice is supposedly conducting against her, saying she was never told about any investigation. She also denied recently firing the former justice secretary in alleged retribution.

The details of the alleged investigation were not immediately known.

Vazquez promised to speak further on the issue on Tuesday.

“I will share all details up front as I’ve done my whole career. With the truth,” she said.

Vazquez’s statement comes after she announced late Friday that she had accepted the resignation of former justice secretary Dennise Longo. No further details were given at the time.

The governor released the statement hours after an incident at the Puerto Rico Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor’s Panel. Nydia Cotto, a former judge who serves as the panel’s presdient, told The Associated Press that someone from the Department of Justice was about to drop off files on Monday related to six cases slated for investigation but abruptly left after receiving a call from an unidentified person at the Department of Justice.

“That has never happened before,” she said.

Cotto declined to identify the people named in those cases or share any other details, saying they were confidential.

Puerto Rico’s newest justice secretary, Wandymar Burgos, said in a statement that she requested the documents on the six cases because she had just found out about them on Monday and needed to know what they were about.

“Let it be abundantly clear to all the people of Puerto Rico that all investigations of merit will be carried out to the last consequence, regardless of the person involved,” she said.

Before the governor released her statement, the opposition Popular Democratic Party held a press conference in which leaders announced they had requested a legislative investigation into the allegations of obstruction of justice. It was not immediately clear if the leader of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives, who is a member of Vazquez’s party, would grant permission for such an investigation.

“The people need to hear from the governor herself,” said Anibal Torres, president of the main opposition party.

Vazque served as Puerto Rico’s justice secretary before the island’s Supreme Court ruled that she should be sworn in as governor after former Gov. Ricardo Rossello stepped down nearly a year ago following massive protests.

Vazquez plans to run for governor in the upcoming elections but faces an Aug. 9 primary of the pro-statehood Progressive New Party.

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