María de Lourdes Santiago: ‘There’s much to do after the elections’

PIP VP is elected to island Senate for a 3rd time, leads at-large vote

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

For the third time, citizens cast their votes to prove she has work left to do.

Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Vice President María de Lourdes Santiago Negrón got a third chance on Wednesday as she was elected senator at-large in the island’s 2020 general elections.

After a chaotic Election Day, Santiago Negrón sat in third place in the early stages of vote counting. However, by late Tuesday the pro-independence candidate had taken the lead by a wide margin, followed by Dignity Project candidate Joanne Rodríguez Veve and New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate William Villafañe. Current Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz followed his NPP colleague closely in fourth place.

“I’m very thankful for the people who voted for me, people who supported the entire campaign, as [PIP at-large representative-elect] Denis [Márquez] is solid in the House and [PIP gubernatorial candidate] Juan’s [Dalmau] votes multiplied by six from the earlier elections. I’m grateful for everyone who supported me,” Santiago Negrón said.

As for the support that the pro-independence party has received, obtaining double-digit points in an electoral event for the first time since 1956, she said those results were influenced by factors such as the struggles citizens went through after the 2017 hurricanes, the earthquakes in the southern regions of island early this year, corruption and “Dalmau’s great campaign as he was able to connect with people and demonstrate complete proposals.”

Santiago Negrón added that, along with Márquez, she will work on a legislative agenda focused on a national healthcare plan, a Special Education Program legislative monitor, environmental projects, and civil participation projects on administrative and legislative matters.

“Right at the [time of the] Summer 2019 protests, we presented three amendments that would request a recall and an adequate process of choosing who would take the seat whenever a governor resigns or is dismissed, and a second electoral round in those cases where none of the candidates get half of the entered votes,” she said. “The bill was there and was never considered during this four-year term. In light of the recent results of the gubernatorial race from the general elections, it’s important to bring our constitutional amendments back to the table.”

The at-large senator-elect said that to guarantee transparency in the Capitol, she will introduce bills that seek to adopt a pay scale within the Legislature, “and that the information on the people who work in both [chambers] be disclosed until a commission is formed with the participation of all the delegations to approve the budget of each [chamber].”

“This is something that [traditionally] would happen behind closed doors in the presidency,” she said. “We would also demand information from the Capitol’s lobbyists, and not by just saying that they go there, because if a lobbyist tells you that they visited the Capitol, but they don’t tell you who they visited and for what [reason], we absolutely will never know anything.”

Santiago Negrón said further that other bills that remain in draft seek to promote citizen participation in both legislative and administrative terms as “most of the terrible things that happen in this country are related to permit grants.”

“There are difficulties with access to public information. Many documents are handled by the state as if they were inaccessible; we believe there must be a presumption that every document must be public,” she said. “It’s the state’s turn to demonstrate that citizens don’t have the right to investigate and hold [state officials to] accountability. We believe this process must be transparent, free, and expedited.”

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