Minority legislators call for investigation of governor
By John McPhaul
Members of the opposition in both houses of the island Legislature called for an investigation Tuesday into the dismissal by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced of former Justice Secretary Denisse Longo Quiñones, which has touched off accusations that the governor is covering up wrongdoing by her administration.
Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Juan Dalmau said the firing of Longo Quiñones, which press reports attribute to the former Justice secretary’s intention to name a special independent prosecutor to investigate the governor, calls Vázquez’s integrity into question.
“We are talking about a scandal of the highest level of governmental function that goes to the heart of duties and powers of the government and deserves to be investigated by the legislative branch,” Dalmau said.
The PIP senator said the Senate has a duty to investigate the scandal as part of its function of checks and balances.
“Given the accusations that have been made against the governor of Puerto Rico to obstruct justice and also to cover up possible crimes committed by members of her administration, I have drafted a resolution to investigate in the Senate of Puerto Rico,” Dalmau said.
The senator said the public does not trust the current government to investigate itself.
“It seems important to me to stress that I share with the country the frustration and distrust with the public government institution to carry out that kind of investigation,” said Dalmau.
Dalmau, also a candidate for governor, added that his administration would name independent committees that would carry out their duty to investigate such scandals with autonomy.
In the House of Representative, meanwhile, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Reps. Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez and José “Conny” Varela filed a resolution to question Longo Quiñones in order to determine the true reasons for her resignation.
They also want to question interim Justice Secretary Wandymar Burgos Vargas about releasing the final report on the complaint they filed in early January against the governor for possible violations of the Penal Code and government ethics, and that according to a newspaper, recommends the appointment of a special independent prosecutor to investigate the governor and people close to her.
“Yesterday, a local newspaper reported that before concluding her duties, former Secretary Longo Quiñones signed a report with the findings of the investigation that began after we filed a lawsuit January 27, 2020 against Gov. Vázquez Garced, for mismanagement of federal resources for political-partisan benefit and which placed aid for the victims (of the various disasters that have befallen Puerto Rico) at risk,” Hernández Montañez said. “Our summons to the current secretary, Burgos, is to make this document public throughout the country because this investigation has already ended.”
The PDP spokesman in the House noted that “on January 27, 2020, I filed this complaint along with Varela and made several referrals to state and federal authorities about possible violations of law by the Governor, and even her own Secretary Longo Quiñones admitted on February 5, 2020 in a public hearing that the investigation on this subject was being attended to by her department.”
Varela added that “[a]mong the indications contained in the complaint were possible violations of Articles 252 -- for illicit use of public jobs or servants -- and 261 -- for undue influence -- of the Puerto Rico Penal Code and to several subsections of Article 4.2 of the Government Code of Ethics.”
“In the same way, violations of [Title] 18 [Section] 598 of the U.S. Code … that states that any official who uses, appropriates, or is an obstacle to a correct distribution of federal reconstruction funds could face fines and even serve time in jail,” Varela said.