• The Star Staff

Governor: Fiscal board ‘must assume responsibility’ for island’s gender violence crisis

Demands authorization of $7 million request to address the issue

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @pete_r_correa

Special to The Star

After the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board contested on Sunday reports claiming that the board denied funds for a gender violence emergency decree, asserting that no final decision has yet to be determined for next fiscal year’s budget, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia lashed out on Monday against the board, insisting that it denied a $7 million preliminary request to cover operational funds for the Gender Violence Prevention, Support, Rescue and Education (PARE by its Spanish acronym) Committee in Puerto Rico.

“Each and everyone must assume their responsibility, and the budget evaluation process is not over yet, but they can still correct, they can still rectify,” he said, referencing a document released last Thursday which stated that the oversight board proposed the corrective action in allocating “$0.2 million” to fund media and advertisements.

“And for them to come and say that they allocated $3 million that I requested for the Department of Justice and say that it is for the same thing, well, excuse me but that allocation was for the recruitment of prosecutors in general,” Pierluisi said. “Do not try to confuse things. The $7 million has not been granted to me, let them grant it to me.”

Meanwhile, when asked if the PARE Committee’s operation depends on the financial board approving the fund request, Pierluisi said it was one of the factors considered.

He made a point of defending the gender violence emergency decree, saying that its “raison d’être” was confirmed amid the recent slayings of 27-year-old Keishla Rodríguez Ortiz and 35-year-old Andrea Ruiz Costas.

“This issue also involves human behavior, this issue goes further than what the police can and have to do, this goes even further than what the Department of Justice can and has to do, this goes further than what the Forensic Sciences Institute, the Women’s Advocate Office, the Department of Public Safety and the Family Department must do,” the governor said. “When we created the PARE Committee, we did it exactly because many organizations that tackle gender violence advised us to do so.”

The governor’s statements came after David Skeel, the oversight board chairman, said Sunday that press reports about a reduction in the budget requested by the governor to address gender violence were incorrect.

According to the board, the Fiscal Plan that was certified last month already included nearly $3 million in additional funds for the Department of Justice to hire additional specialized personnel for its domestic violence, sex crimes and child abuse units.

In his budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2022, which begins July 1, Pierluisi proposed allocating an additional $7 million from the government’s General Fund “to combat gender-based violence.”

Later on Monday, feminist organization Colectiva Feminista en Construcción held a demonstration in front of La Fortaleza Street to demand that the government tackle the island’s gender violence problem, claiming that “one woman in Puerto Rico is murdered every day.”

The collective also demanded that the PARE Committee be more transparent in its processes as the island has had 18 femicides so far in 2021.