Updated Jan 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

New Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declares "fiscal emergency"

Puerto Rico's new governor Pedro Pierluisi holds press conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico on August 06
Pedro Pierluisi. Photo: Alejandro Granadillo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi declared a "fiscal emergency" and ordered the island's Department of Justice to step up anti-corruption efforts Saturday — hours after being sworn in, per Bloomberg.

Why it matters: Puerto Rico has experienced a tumultuous period politically and economically, with three governors in four years and a billion-dollar public debt.

  • The pandemic has badly affected the island, which is still recovering from catastrophic Hurricane Maria and last year's earthquakes.
  • Political analyst Mario Negrón told AP, "The economy is in critical condition, and even though federal funds are on their way, people forget that the debt will have to be paid starting in February."

The big picture: Pierluisi signed six executive orders Saturday night — including the fiscal measure instructing government agencies to reduce costs, such as imposing travel limits, and for the local DOJ to liaise closely with federal prosecutors in corruption cases.

  • The 61-year-old leader of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party also ordered the Caribbean island's health department to "design a robust" plan for coronavirus testing, according to Bloomberg.

What he's saying: In a bilingual speech after being sworn in earlier Saturday, Pierluisi vowed to "turn the page on political turbulence," fight corruption, "work hard on what unites us," and achieve prosperity through statehood.

  • He called on "everyone to battle our common enemies: the pandemic, poverty and crime, lack of access to good education and health care, economic stagnation, corruption and inequality."
  • Doing this while jump-starting the economy, attracting investment and growing the tourism industry would "put Puerto Rico on a path to recovery and progress," Pierluisi said.

Of note: Pierluisi briefly served as governor after former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resigned in 2019 amid massive protests after the U.S. territory's House of Representatives found five impeachable offenses against him.

  • The new governor previously caucused with the Democrats as the island's congressional representative for eight years.

Go deeper: Why Puerto Rico is still struggling to get online

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details of the executive orders.

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