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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Opposition leaders blast governor’s state speech as ‘a catalog of federal money’

Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz

By John McPhaul

Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago blasted Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia’s State of the State speech on Tuesday, saying that “80% of this message is federal funds that Puerto Rico receives thanks to the Commonwealth.”

He added that the government has “only committed 15% of them.”

Independent Sen. José “Chaco” Vargas Vidot agreed, saying that the governor’s speech was a “catalog of federal money.”

Although he said he found the initiatives positive, Vargas Vidot pointed out that they don’t come with recurring funds.

“My question is if the economic development plan of Puerto Rico is aware of the human being as its center, or is it a plan to continue benefiting large investors, as is the case with gentrification, with decrees?” Vargas Vidot said.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Rafael Hernández Montañez said: “The governor’s message lied to the country.” “Respectfully, we ask you not to lend yourself to lies,” he said. “During his message, the governor repeated nonsensically that his administration makes things happen. The whole country and especially his own government have recognized that in the administration of Pedro Pierluisi, things are not happening.”

At a press conference after the address, Hernández Montañez elaborated on the issues of the reconstruction of the island that the governor addressed.

“The reconstruction funds have already been disbursed by FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency], but the agencies have not executed the projects,” he said. “Six years after Hurricane Maria, it is unacceptable that not a single permanent works project has been completed.”

Puerto Rico Mayors Association President Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz concurred with Hernández Montañez’s assertion, adding that the speech was a partisan exercise in deception.

“We expected a State Message, but unfortunately the governor decided to start his political campaign under shouts of ‘four more years’ from his members in the House of Representatives,” Hernández Ortiz said. “He closed the Capitol to the general public and only allowed his NPP [New Progressive Party] co-religionists to enter.”

Popular Democratic Party Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz González echoed his fellow opposition leaders.

“Pierluisi focused his message on the federal funds to which the island has had access for six years, without execution being seen on the street,” Ortiz González said. “He had a great opportunity and wasted it. This message was much ado about nothing!”

“The governor dedicated his message to comparing the past two years with the previous four. All from NPP administrations,” he added. “In six years of the NPP, the recovery is moving at a trickle, the Public Safety Department does not work, the referrals of unattended child abuse continue to increase, the permit system continues to be a problem, the cost of living rises disproportionately and there is no alternative to mitigate that.”

“The governor said things are ‘in process, ongoing, obligated,’ another way of saying that nothing has happened,” said Dalmau Santiago, the Senate president. “The governor’s message is how the government works … superficially.”

Mayagüez-Aguadilla District Sen. Migdalia González Arroyo charged in a press release that the western part of the island was forgotten by Pierluisi in his message.

“No economic development projects for the west, no sports projects for the west, no health projects for the west, no projects of social interest to the people of the west, no major infrastructure projects for the west,” the chair of the Senate Western Development Committee said.

“You have to make things happen in the west; the west has a lot to give the country,” González Arroyo added. “The governor lives in a Puerto Rico that is different from mine.”

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