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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Governor defends gov’t spending on bodyguards for public officials

The governor said the accumulation of costly overtime by members of security details can be avoided with shift assigments.

By The Star Staff

Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Tuesday defended government spending on bodyguards for public officials, denied that Applied Energy Systems (AES) of Guayama had asked the island power authority for an economic rescue, and called for more signage at dangerous beaches.

Regarding the spending on bodyguards, Pierluisi said the topic is not new.

“Actually, the secretary of public safety is responsible for supervising the security and protection offered to government officials and dignitaries,” the governor said in response to questions from the press. “There has always been a need to provide security and protection to certain government officials, as well as visiting dignitaries. That said, the security provided is fair and necessary.”

Often bodyguards have to work overtime, causing an increase in costs, but the governor said this can be avoided if the staff is assigned by shifts.

“But it is the public safety secretary who has the last word,” Pierluisi said.

“We have to be as frugal as possible in spending because, even though we are leaving bankruptcy behind, we have to balance that checkbook,” he added.

Regarding the cost of providing security to Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, the governor said: “It has always been like this.”

Pierluisi also denied that there had been any request by Applied Energy Systems (AES) of Guayama for an economic rescue. AES allegedly asked the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to take over its coal power plant in the southern coastal municipality but allow the company to remain as operator. The company is slated to convert to the use of renewable energy sources because after 2027 coal will be banned as a source of energy in Puerto Rico.

“The information I have from [PREPA Executive Director] Josué Colón is that there has been no such request,” the governor told reporters. “Josué Colón is the one in a negotiation process with that entity [AES] that is provided for by the Energy Public Policy Law to convert the energy source in that plant to renewable or clean energy sources. So, he is on course, but he has denied that there was such a request and he is the right person to answer any questions about the matter.”

“The law, which is the Public Energy Policy, allows negotiations or conversations to be carried out to change the generation that the entity has [in place] for renewable or clean sources,” Pierluisi added.

Following the weekend drowning of a 12-year-old boy at a beach in Condado that critics say is not suitable for swimmers, the governor said he wants more signs to be installed on dangerous beaches warning swimmers. A New Progressive Party senator criticized the government for not appointing lifeguards to the area as promised.

“On the Condado beach there are signs, basically that [the waters] are not suitable for bathers. So, I would like to see more signs,” Pierluisi said. “Some can be installed by the government, others can be installed by hotels in the area because they certainly have to protect their guests.”

“It had been announced before by the Department of Natural Resources and the Tourism Company that they put some towers in the area; we want to install and improve them so that they are more resistant,” he added. “The ones that exist are made of wood and we would like them to be made of another material.”

The governor made his statements during his participation in a ceremony recognizing the lives of six Police Bureau agents who fell in the line of duty.

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