Late Wednesday night, Governor Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico announced he would resign on August 2, marking an incredible win for the men and women who’ve been protesting for nearly two weeks to demand that Rosselló step down. The citizens-turned-activists denounced Rosselló after hundreds of pages of the governor’s group chat messages were published by Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, an investigative news organization. The texts implicate Rosselló in manipulating public opinion polls to boost his image and also included various sexist and homophobic messages, mocking journalists, feminist organizers, and San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.
For the protesters, it was a night of celebration. But if citizens of the island want real change, then Rosselló’s successor Wanda Vázquez, who has held the highest title in the island’s Department of Justice for just over two years, might be disappointing. When her name was announced on Wednesday night, protesters seemed to audibly groan, according to at least one reporter from Reuters in San Juan:
[Protestors] switched to boos when rally leaders reminded them Rosselló’s replacement would be Vazquez. Some protesters said the rallies would not stop if Vazquez takes office. [...] “We need to clean house entirely[,]” [said Zoe Alva, 32.]
Like Rosselló, Vázquez is a member of the New Progressive Party, and there is already a hashtag trending asking her to resign (#WandaRenuncia).
Some of the public criticism against Vázquez looks like political infighting: the Senate leader Thomas Rivera Schatz has called Vázquez the “secretary of nothing” and has previously called for her resignation. Their public relationship has been highly combative; after Vazquez led a probe into Rivera’s office, a member of the Senate was indicted for “submitting fake invoices that benefited Mr. Rivera’s political allies,” according to the New York Times.
But some of the criticism appears to be warranted: Vazquez herself has been accused of committing unethical behavior to favor her family members, and faced criminal charges from the Office of the Independent Special Prosecutor while she was Secretary of Justice. (She was later cleared due to insufficient evidence.) Feminist leaders have also called her what they see as ineffectual leadership on women’s rights and gender violence, when she led the Office for Women’s Rights.
“A lot of feminist groups were very critical of Wanda Vázquez,” Saadi Rosado of the Feminist Collective, an advocacy group, told the Times. “She failed to address gender violence issues and was another piece of government bureaucracy.” Rosado’s group published a list of demands on their Facebook page on Wednesday, including for the incoming governor to declare a state of crisis around domestic violence, which Puerto Rico has reportedly seen a spike in since Hurricane Maria.
When Rosselló was in office, feminist groups led a weekend-long protest asking the governor to take meaningful action on fighting domestic violence in Puerto Rico. Presumably, if Wanda Vázquez’s appointment proves similarly unpopular, Puerto Rican citizens will just continue agitating for change.