• The Star Staff

House speaker rejects PDP impeachment petition against Vázquez

House speaker Carlos Johnny Méndez

By The Star Staff

Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Núñez on Tuesday rejected a request by House Minority Leader Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez regarding his petition to impeach Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced.

In a letter, the lower chamber leader said “we cannot forget that, in representative democracy, elected officials serve the [interests] of the sovereign: the people.”

“The people are very soon to express themselves at the polls in procedures that are also dictated by our Constitution,” Méndez Núñez said. “This [public] servant will never shy away from his legislative responsibilities, but he will never allow himself to believe that he is above the unappealable verdict of the ballot box.”

The House speaker responded to a letter sent in the morning by Hernández Montañez in which he requested that a “process of residence” be initiated against the governor due to the assignment on Monday of two special independent prosecutors by the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel. The minority leader’s request was made under the protection of Section 21 of Article III of the Puerto Rico Constitution.

Former San Juan District senator and at-large Senate candidate under the minority Popular Democratic Party, Ramón Luis Nieves, meanwhile, also called on the legislative leaders Tuesday to begin impeachment proceedings against Vázquez after the special independent prosecutor panel office agreed to investigate her.

Nieves accused the governor of attempting to obstruct justice after she appointed a new member to the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor on Tuesday morning.

“The appointment of a new member to the Office of the Special Independent Prosecutor, the same body that has launched a criminal investigation against her, is an affront to that body’s independence, and another manifestation of obstruction of justice,” Nieves said in a statement.

He said the governor has shown total contempt for the institutions that oversee corruption, emulating former President Richard Nixon, who resigned from office in the 1970s because of the Watergate scandal.

“She did nothing as Secretary of Justice to go after corruption in her own New Progressive Party government,” Nieves said. “She used her powers for the political persecution of adversaries, as was the case with the mayor of Patillas, Norberto Soto. She [as governor] fired Justice Secretary Dennise Longo [Quiñones], when she knew they were going to refer her to the SIP [special independent prosecutor panel].”

Nieves called on Méndez Núñez and Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz to “assume their constitutional responsibility, right now, no matter if we are days away from the primaries.”

“The governor is clearly obstructing justice,” he said. “Legislative bodies are obligated to begin the impeachment of a governor who has shown complete disregard for law enforcement.”

The panel also will investigate other government officials including New Progressive Party Sen. Evelyn Vázquez Nieves and La Fortaleza Chief of Staff Antonio Luis Pabón.

La Fortaleza said the governor had already expressed herself on the issue earlier this month during a press conference in which she said she would welcome an investigation and called the allegations “vengeful” and “rigged.”

The former Justice secretary, Longo Quiñones, had issued a statement in early July saying the governor and others were the targets of an investigation that the department had launched earlier this year involving the alleged mismanagement of supplies slated for Puerto Rico residents affected by a series of strong earthquakes.

Longo Quiñones was fired the same day she referred the cases to the special independent prosecutor panel. It was later revealed that an official from the Justice Department was about to drop off files related to the cases slated for investigation at the panel office but abruptly left after receiving a call from someone at the Justice Department.

Wandymar Burgos, the Justice secretary appointed after Longo was fired, later said she was the one who demanded the cases be returned because she had just found out about them and needed to research them. Government officials then demanded that she resign, which she did.

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