By John McPhaul
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Wednesday that he will not ask the New Progressive Party (NPP) Senate delegation for a caucus vote in favor of interim Women’s Advocate Vilmarie Rivera Sierra.
“What I hope is that everyone votes individually, that this is not a matter of caucus, but that everyone is allowed to set their position at their time,” the governor said in response to questions from the press.
Pierluisi Urrutia hopes that today’s public hearing before the Senate Appointments Committee will serve to clarify concerns about Rivera Sierra, who allegedly does not have the votes to be confirmed at the moment.
“I’m not going to be here asking for a caucus rule vote like everyone has to vote one way or another,” the governor said. “For appointments, I think that senators should have their own judgment and in due course, I will know who voted and why. But this is not yet the time, because the advocate has not had the opportunity to appear at that hearing.”
Pierluisi also said Wednesday he has no objection to giving the Office of the Elections Comptroller greater powers to oversee political campaign revenues.
“The electoral comptroller can propose a draft to that effect before the Legislative Assembly and at that time I will establish my position,” the governor told the press.
Among other issues, the electoral comptroller, Walter Vélez, wants anonymous donations to be eliminated and that he be allowed greater powers to oversee political action committees (PACs and Super PACs).
“In principle, I see transparency as good, that donors are identified and that it is identified by check or money order,” Pierluisi said. “If the electoral comptroller wants to reduce it even more, I see it as good.”
His statements were in response to the allegations used by the legal team of former Guaynabo mayor Ángel Pérez Otero that the money that contractor Oscar Santamaría gave him in a transfer recorded by federal authorities was donations to his political campaign.
Also on Wednesday, the governor said he understands why former Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced is asking for money to pay for her defense over charges she faces in federal court.
“The former governor is supported by the presumption of innocence,” he said. “And it is her right to solicit donations for the cost of her defense. I know that the cost of the defense in federal court is very high and I also know that the former governor is a middle-class professional who I know does not have great resources, and I am not surprised that she has done that.”
“What I want is for justice to be done and we will know the outcome in due course,” Pierluisi said. “In the meantime, I can’t criticize what she’s doing.”
Last week, a press release was issued announcing the creation of the “Corporation for the Defense of Justice, Truth and Honesty,” which requested donations and the intention to help pay for Vázquez Garced’s defense.
The former governor faces charges of bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud in connection with her 2020 election campaign.