Wanda Vázquez, who became Puerto Rico’s governor last August after the resignation of Ricardo Rosselló and following a bumpy succession process, announced on Monday afternoon that she will run for governor of the U.S. territory, despite having made previous statements to the contrary and after weeks of rumors and speculation.
The announcement will now thrust the island’s New Progressive Party (PNP, in Spanish) into a primary battle, with Vázquez squaring off against Pedro Pierluisi, a former non-voting member of Congress representing Puerto Rico.
“The people are tired of traditional politicians,” said Vázquez during a message in YouTube that published at 3:00 p.m. on Monday. “I have risen from the bottom, with 32 years of experience as a prosecutor, as women’s advocate and as secretary of Justice.”
Vázquez, who has been Puerto Rico governor since last August, took office after a tumultuous couple of months that saw then-governor Ricardo Rosselló at the center of a scandal involving a leaked group chat between Rosselló and several of his closest associates in the administration.
The 700-plus-page document, apart from being rife with sexist and homophobic comments, also included possible instances of corruption. The revelation sparked mass protests that lasted close to two weeks before Rosselló succumbed to public pressure and stepped down.
Discussions about who would take over Rosselló’s chair proved to be almost as controversial in later days, with Rosselló seemingly handpicking Pierluisi to be the new governor despite Vázquez, because of her position as Justice secretary, being second in the line of succession per constitutional mandate.
The first in the line of succession, that of Secretary of State, had been left vacant when Luis Rivera Marín resigned shortly after the group chat scandal broke out. Days before Rosselló was due to abandon his post, he appointed Pierluisi as State Secretary in a move that was severely criticized by lawmakers.
However, a few days after Pierluisi took over as governor, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court ruled against his incumbency and opened the door for Vázquez, who at the time said she would not run for election in 2020.
During her Monday speech, Vázquez, who admitted she lacked the “political machinery” backing other candidates, said her campaign priorities would focus on equal rights for women, social and economic development, education and health.