• The Star Staff

Mariana Nogales Molinelli aspires to be the people’s sword and shield

CVM lawmaker-elect commits to safeguarding people’s rights at the Capitol

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

After years of watching out for citizens fighting for justice on the streets of Puerto Rico and safeguarding their civil rights, Citizens Victory Movement (CVM) at-large representative-elect Mariana Nogales Molinelli says she is committed to bringing the power of the people into the Puerto Rico Legislature.

“I have been congratulated by people who saw me at protests, people who I helped get out of police stations, people who I represented in cases; that makes me happy, it brings tears to my eyes because it is moving how that support translated into votes,” Nogales Molinelli said as she became the at-large House representative-elect with the third most votes in the 2020 general elections.

As for her campaign to bring the struggles from the island’s streets into the Legislature, the Puerto Rico Secular Humanists founder said the purpose is to work “for the defense of the people, of ensuring that people’s rights are not violated.”

“I will work with various initiatives, such as access to public information, [and] I will commit to making any legislative information or bills accessible as people have the right to acquire, examine and submit comments,” Nogales Molinelli said. “If the Legislature is stubborn and persists in maintaining secrecy, then I will take every step, either in court or any other forum, to broadcast that information.”

Nogales Molinelli said citizen participation in large-scale legislation is key to promoting transparency.

“Recently, both the new Civil Code and Electoral Code were approved with little to no participation from the people. We have to make sure that citizen participation happens,” she said, adding that her office doors will be open to citizens from all sectors. “I’m also committed to speaking with both our legislative caucus members and legislators from other political parties to promote the people’s interests.”

Regarding corruption, Nogales Molinelli said a forensic public debt audit will be one of her main focuses as it has been the CVM’s mission since its foundation in March 2019. Likewise, she said she will also confront the federal Financial Oversight and Management Board to protect public pensions and essential services such as the University of Puerto Rico and the public school system.

“We have to know what happened, who were the ones involved, who committed corruption and illicit activities. We know that the crimes of public officials do not [expire], so we can always make those referrals to the Department of Justice and other forums, and prosecute those who were responsible for the debt,” she said. “Later, in the assessment, it can be determined which parts of the debt are illegal, odious, or can be eradicated. But the people have the right to know, and the way the people can recognize it is through a debt audit.”

As for women’s rights and LGBTQIAP+ rights, Nogales Molinelli told the Star that she would re-evaluate the Women’s Advocate Office with other human rights organizations and create “another organism, that has yet to be named, that would be a human rights protection and advocacy organization jointly for the rights of women and the LGBTQIAP+ community.”

Meanwhile, the former 2016 resident commissioner candidate for the since dissolved Working People’s Party said other legislative bills that are on her drafting table will focus on issues such as climate change, clean energy, sustainability, public transportation, urban revitalization and environmental protection.

“We must recognize that we are exposed to climate change and we must evaluate and re-evaluate so much current legislation, such as the Land Use Plan, since it was written in 2015 and didn’t anticipate the changes brought after hurricanes Irma and Maria,” Nogales Molinelli said. “We must make changes that have been overdue for decades and that we can’t take for granted because climate change represents an increase in temperatures, in the intensity of tropical storms, in the sea level, and we might expect great effects in the next 50 years. This evaluation also considers strengthening the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, which is vital for me.”

As for what’s next, the at-large legislator-elect said she will focus on advocating for earthquake-resistant public schools and ensure federal recovery funds “do not fall into the hands of corruption so children can come back to school safe and sound.”