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With Puerto Rico leader set to quit, successor still unknown

Stock MarketsAug 02, 2019 05:36PM ET
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© Reuters. Pierluisi during a public hearing of the Commission of Government of the House of Representatives in San Juan

SAN JUAN (Reuters) - Embattled Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló on Friday said the lawyer who formerly represented the bankrupt island in the U.S. Congress will take over when he resigns following street protests over corruption investigations and profane text messages.

Pedro Pierluisi, who has advised the unpopular federal panel overseeing the U.S. territory's finances, will be sworn in as governor after Rosselló's exit, Rosselló said in a statement.

A crowd of hundreds of people, many waving the U.S. territory's flag, chanted and rang bells outside the governor's mansion in the historic center of San Juan as they awaited Rosselló. The same street was the site of 12 nights of protests demanding his exit.

The choice of Pierluisi remains controversial as Puerto Rico's Senate has not yet confirmed him as secretary of state, next in line to succeed a resigning governor.

Anger has been building for years in Puerto Rico over a series of crises including the island's bankruptcy filing, ineffective recovery efforts after a 2017 hurricane killed more than 3,000 people and corruption scandals linked to governors.

The House voted 26 in favor of his nomination and 21 against, with one abstention. The Senate has yet to vote.

Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz sent a statement saying the House vote "deserves total respect from everyone. Now it passes to the Senate. With the greatest sense of responsibility, we will respond. Next Wednesday, the full Senate will attend. That day the matter will be resolved."

Protesters and ruling party leaders including Schatz have rejected Pierluisi as the island’s next governor, saying his work as an attorney for the fiscal control board overseeing the island’s bankruptcy created conflicts of interest.

José Julián Alvarez, constitutional law professor at the University of Puerto Rico Law School, has contended that Pierluisi's nomination as secretary of state must be confirmed by both Puerto Rico's House and Senate before he could become governor.

Federal officials and investors are keenly watching the island's uncertain political transition. Puerto Rico has $42.5 billion in federal disaster funding allocated to it, and its bankruptcy is the biggest ever in the U.S. municipal bond market.

With Puerto Rico leader set to quit, successor still unknown
 

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