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Puerto Rico's Legislative Assembly Could Start Impeachment Proceedings

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

If Puerto Rico's governor, Ricardo Rossello, won't step down voluntarily, the island's Legislative Assembly could start impeachment proceedings. Puerto Rico's Bar Association says there is enough evidence to do that. It commissioned three lawyers to produce a report on the matter, and one of those lawyers joins us now. Yanira Reyes Gil teaches law at the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Welcome.

YANIRA REYES GIL: Hello.

SHAPIRO: We know these chat messages were crude, offensive, sexist, homophobic. But what is the evidence that supports impeachment?

REYES GIL: The Constitution of Puerto Rico, much like the Constitution of the United States, establishes that a governor can be impeached for treason, bribery, other serious felonies and misdemeanors that imply moral deprivation. And we did find several felonies in that chat.

SHAPIRO: Specifically what?

REYES GIL: We found the felony of illicit enrichment, undue intervention in government operations, criminal threats against public officials.

SHAPIRO: So various forms of kind of corruption and misusing money to enrich himself; those sorts of things.

REYES GIL: Exactly. But particularly against the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín, we found criminal threats against her, an invitation of violence against her, illegal collection of personal information to discriminate for political ideas, obstruction to the public function, conspiracy against a public official, embezzlement of public funds, conspiracy against rights according to the U.S. code and several violations to the government ethics law of Puerto Rico.

SHAPIRO: Did your investigation only look into the text messages or was the inquiry broader than that?

REYES GIL: No, we only looked at the chat because that was the assignment. We believe that there is a lot more because this chat was over 800 pages. It was just for 50 days.

SHAPIRO: You finished the report and released it on Friday. What has the response been from the legislative assembly?

REYES GIL: Well, the legislature, particularly the speaker of the House - he said that he was not going to use our report because he appointed three lawyers that he selected from - we didn't know the criteria of the selection of those three people. And he gave them 10 days to make a report.

SHAPIRO: So just to be clear, you were part of a commission appointed by Puerto Rico's Bar Association. Now there is a separate commission doing its own investigation appointed by the speaker of the House. Why would he create that kind of a parallel commission?

REYES GIL: Well, we think that the speaker wants to make sure that the report does not bring about conclusions of impeachment and also that he wants to delay the process.

SHAPIRO: You think he's trying to protect the governor.

REYES GIL: Of course. Of course. He has said several times that he does not think that the governor of Puerto Rico should be impeached, although he asked him for resignation. He did that publicly, but he says that there's not enough evidence for impeachment. So we already think that he has his mind made up.

SHAPIRO: If the legislature does not impeach the governor, do you think he can complete his term?

REYES GIL: Well, I don't think the Puerto Rican people will let him do that. I don't think it's sustainable at this point. The governor of Puerto Rico has to understand that today, he does not have any respect from anyone, and he does not have the resources to govern Puerto Rico.

SHAPIRO: Yanira Reyes Gil is an associate law professor in Puerto Rico.

Thank you for joining us.

REYES GIL: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: And we should note NPR has asked Governor Rossello for an interview - so far, no reply. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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