Puerto Rico’s Governor Wanda Vázquez ended speculation this week over her vision for the future of the island, officially announcing her run for office in the 2020 general election. “The people are tired of traditional politicians. I come from the bottom, for 32 years as a prosecutor, as a women’s advocate and as secretary of justice,” Vázquez told NBC News upon her announcement.
Vázquez has been leading Puerto Rico ever since former governor Ricardo Rosselló’s ouster this past summer, assuming office after Rosselló tried to install Pedro Pierluisi as his replacement (which was deemed unconstitutional by their Supreme Court); Pierluisi has also thrown his hat into the ring for the upcoming election. Both politicians are running as candidates for the New Progressive Party, so they’ll face each other in the primaries in the spring.
Vázquez had initially suggested to her constituents that she had no interest in running for her gubernatorial seat in the next election, a decision she made in order to win the confidence of the community in turmoil. Her run for office is less a failure to follow through on this pledge and more a realization that the island needs to be stabilized through continuity. “What I mean by continuity is that Puerto Rico deserves to continue with the plans created for the people of Puerto Rico,” Vázquez recently told BELatina in an exclusive interview. “I feel as though a lot of the times when there’s a change of government, too much time is wasted in changing things from the previous government.”
Looking ahead, the next governor will need to bring to the table a viable plan to lift Puerto Rico from its economic recession, which has crippled the island over the course of the last decade.
More immediately, the island’s leadership needs to find a way to provide aid to those who have been left behind or forgotten by the federal government in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. According to a recent report in the New York Times, FEMA aid is practically at a standstill compared to the agency’s efforts to provide relief to communities on the mainland, a failure that reeks of racism. “From Day 1, right after Maria hit Puerto Rico, there has been a different standard for how the administration responded to Harvey and Irma,” New York Representative Nydia M. Velázquez told the publication; Velázquez was the country’s first Puerto Rican woman ever elected to the House of Representatives.
Additionally, the next governor will ideally be prepared to carry out Vázquez’s recent plan to modernize its power grid as a way to protect the island against future disasters and prevent future loss of life.