SAN JUAN – Ricardo Rossello began on Monday his four-year term as Puerto Rico’s 11th governor after participating in an inauguration ceremony, as per established protocol, on the north stairs of the Capitol, seat of the legislature in San Juan.
The ceremony had only symbolic value given that Rossello had been officially sworn in shortly after midnight.
Rossello, 37, was sworn in by the chief justice of the Caribbean island’s Supreme Court, Maite Oronoz, in the presence of his family and, in particular, his father, former Gov. Pedro Rossello, who governed from 1993-2000.
Rossello’s investiture had been confirmed earlier on Monday morning in a statement by the head of the Inauguration Committee, Juan Melecio Machuca.
The new governor said the reason the first inaugural ceremony was held just after midnight rather than at the scheduled time of 10 am was because he wanted to give credibility to his pledged commitment to Puerto Rico and set an example of hard work from the very first moment he took office.
Rossello continued his activities through the early hours Monday, during which he signed several executive orders.
His entire Cabinet met during the night to establish how each government agency will begin operating in the most effective way possible.
During the ceremony, Puerto Rico’s new secretary of state, Luis Rivera Marin, read a letter sent by U.S. President Barack Obama in which the president expressed his desire for a solution to the problem of the U.S. commonwealth’s gigantic debt and the economic crisis the island has labored under for more than a decade.
Obama said in the letter that to solve the island’s critical problem the U.S. Congress last June approved a law for the supervision, administration and economic stability of Puerto Rico, a law that provides the necessary tools to ensure the recovery of local finances.
The new governor will have as his primary challenge dealing with the payment of a public debt amounting to $69 billion with the public coffers empty but under the direct supervision of the controlling entity imposed by the U.S. Congress.
During his gubernatorial campaign, Rossello said that, if elected, he would push for a referendum on the island’s political relationship with Washington, and he avoided using the term “U.S. commonwealth” during his inaugural remarks, since he feels that this political status has been the cause of the territory’s ills.
He said that on Monday he will accompany Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative to Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez, to Washington to support initial efforts designed to make the island the 51st U.S. state.