Governor-elect makes first cabinet appointments with final SEC certification still pending

Pierluisi looks to appoint professionals who are committed to working for Puerto Rico no matter their political colors

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Although not yet certified by the State Elections Commission because the general vote count remains unfinished, Puerto Rico governor-elect Pedro Pierluisi Urrutía on Wednesday announced his first cabinet appointments.

At a press conference held at the Antiguo Casino de Puerto Rico, Pierluisi said he felt pleased presenting his future cabinet members as they will give the island “the government of excellence that it deserves.”

He said he has taken his time to select “high-caliber professionals … hard-working, thorough, experienced people who are willing to continue and give everything for our island.”

“Our people sent a clear message that they want to be taken into account, that they want a government that responds and works for everyone,” the governor-elect said.

Among the appointments, Pierluisi named former Sen. Larry Seilhamer as secretary of State “to entrust him as a special project with the direction of a work group that will speed up the reconstruction of our infrastructures, our schools and our environment.”

Seilhamer said it is time to “take off the red shirt, the blue shirt, the yellow shirt, the green shirt and put on Puerto Rico’s shirt” as he called for collaboration among the “diversified” legislative and executive branches of the incoming government.

Pierluisi also appointed attorney Domingo Emanuelli Hernández as secretary of Justice.

Emanuelli Hernández recognized that he faces a “great challenge.”

“I know the perception that people have of the Department of Justice, and I also know that it’s not only a perception; this department has fallen,” the appointee said as he asked citizens to trust the department again.

“I come with a promise to the people and the country,” Emanuelli Hernández said. “I am committed to working to gather the best talent, men and women, who will not only come to accuse people, but also come to protect the human rights of everyone who lives on this island.”

Pierluisi also designated Puerto Rico Teachers Association President Elba Aponte Santos as secretary of Education. He said she will be working to advocate for access to education for both children and special education students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aponte Santos said she is ready to work for children, school communities, service assistants, teachers and Puerto Rican society “in the most complicated scenario in Puerto Rico’s history on education matters that haven’t been under our control.”

“I decided to take a step forward to work with impetus, energy, and to put all my will into drawing up public policies to empower children and families with education, which is a crucial tool for transformation and self-sufficiency,” she said.

When the Star asked Aponte Santos if she was going to consider re-establishing gender perspective in the agency’s education curriculum, she responded that “we have to work with gender perspective because that implies equality, equity and access to opportunities that the child has in an integral way no matter what gender they have.”

Meanwhile, Pierluisi also appointed businessman Manuel Cidre Miranda as Economic Development and Commerce secretary.

Cidre Miranda said his focus would be on developing “a common economic development vision in hand with a brand that distinguishes us around the world.”

He also said he will commit himself to improving “efficiency in the central government’s infrastructure, administration and transparency” to begin “the economic revolution that Puerto Rico needs.”

The governor-elect also announced that current Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea and Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority Executive Director Omar Marrero will remain in their seats, which means they won’t have to go through the Senate confirmation process.