• Puerto Rico Governor resigns but continued protests may affect road transportation

    06 August 2019

    After 14 days of ongoing protests against Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello announced his resignation on Wednesday, July 24. Although a formal declaration of the governor’s resignation has been issued, demonstrations have continued and are expected to persist. Puerto Rico’s Justice Secretary, Wanda Vázquez Garced, was next in line to be governor; however, she has publicly stated that she does not want to fill the position. To ensure there is a successor, the outgoing governor appointed lawyer Pedro Pierluisi as Secretary of State, and Pierluisi was confirmed in that position by Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives on Friday, August 2.

    The Senate held a public confirmation hearing on August 5, and will vote on Pierluisi’s governorship on Wednesday, August 7. Should Pierluisi fail to be confirmed, he would be unable to serve as governor and Justice Secretary Vazquez will likely fill the position. It is highly probable that protests will persist regardless who fills the governor’s office. Protestors have already demanded Pierluisi’s resignation and have previously demanded the resignation of Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez Garced once news indicated that she may become the interim governor.

    Union participation in the protests

    Monitoring by Resilience360 reveals that continuing demonstrations in Puerto Rico organized by several unions have caused considerable logistics disruptions throughout the island since July 12 and are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  Unions participating include the Trade Union Coordinator, Union of Workers of the Electrical and Irrigation Industry (Utier), Puerto Rican Central of Workers, Unitary Coordinator of Workers, General Union of Workers, Puerto Rican Union of Workers, Local Central Federation of Workers 481 UFCW, and the Federation of Workers of Puerto Rico.

    Demonstrations are likely to continue as protestors have also called for dismantling the Fiscal Oversight and Management Board, called la junta by locals, which was established by the U.S. Congress to manage Puerto Rico’s mounting debt. Protests are also likely to persist due to Pedro Pierluisi’s or Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez Garced’s possible appointment as the Island’s new governor, who many perceive as being too close to Rossello.

    Ground cargo transportation continues to face disruptions

    Thoroughfares that could be affected by the demonstrations in the upcoming days are the entrance and exit of the Plaza Las Américas shopping center; Roosevelt Avenue intersection with Andalucía Avenue and Roosevelt intersection with América Street; Ponce de León Avenue near Arterial B Avenue; Chardón street intersection with César González street; Domenech Street and Muñoz Rivera Avenue.

    Prior to the nationwide strike on July 22, the Secretary of the Department of Public Security announced alternate routes for those heading to San Juan from different points on the Island to maintain an orderly flow of traffic. It is likely that the Department will maintain these alternate routes for upcoming protests. According to the Department, the alternate routes include Highway No. 1 from Caguas to San Juan towards Rio Piedras, and Highway 21 towards the Medical Center and Avenida Américo Miranda in San Juan proper. Express 18 is anticipated to be closed, thus warranting the use of Express 22 towards the Millinas Tunnel or Kennedy Avenue for travel from Bayamón to Caguas.

    Truck drivers are deliberating joining future strikes, according to a spokesperson for several trucking organizations. The trucker groups met on July 29 to make this deliberation but a formal announcement has not been made yet. If the truck drivers decide to join, the protests are anticipated to intensify and lead to worsening road and highway congestions, delaying shipments throughout the island.

    No major disruptions to air freight operations are expected. Previous protests on the island have shown that protesters tend to congregate on the streets of major highways and not around airports, which are secured by local police forces. The demonstrations are concentrated in San Juan and, according to local media sources, the intersection of Cristo Street and Fortaleza Street has been the epicenter of the protests. The rest of the island seems to have returned to normalcy and there has not been a significant impact on local industry.

    Outlook

    It is probable that demonstrations will continue due to the dissatisfaction among Puerto Ricans towards the governor’s possible successors and the Financial Oversight Board. Local groups are likely to regroup and redirect their efforts towards Pierluisi, Vazquez and/or the Board.

    Further demonstrations have the potential to increase traffic congestions and further delay shipments throughout the island, but will likely be concentrated in San Juan. Under the Jones Act, transportation of goods between two U.S. ports must be carried out by a vessel that was built in the U.S. and operated by primarily U.S. citizens. This poses maritime logistics impediments due to the large number of foreign vessels that use the Port of San Juan to import goods. Therefore, any maritime shipping issues that could ordinarily be resolved via conventional shipping rescheduling may be complicated given the limited number of permitted lanes available to Puerto Rico, as demonstrated during Hurricane Maria of 2017.

    Customers are advised to monitor further developments on Resilience360.

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