PDP candidates accuse resident commissioner of living ‘the good life’ while island suffered
By John McPhaul
Popular Democratic Party Rep. Ángel Matos García (Carolina) and Manuel Calderón Cerame, the PDP candidate for the District 4 (San Juan) seat in the House of Representatives said Sunday that while the island suffered after Hurricane Maria, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón “dedicated herself to the good life, traveling all over the world and enjoying very expensive hotels and exquisite restaurants paid for with public funds from the federal Congress, her political campaign committee and private groups.”
“Nine days before the elections, the country must know where its elected officials were and what efforts they took in recent years, while Puerto Ricans suffered the effects of two hurricanes, Irma and Maria,” Matos García said. “The corrupt government of the New Progressive Party of Ricardo Rosselló and Wanda Vázquez was joined by the callousness and arrogance of Jenniffer González, who, from the beginning of her mandate in the federal capital, was very well organized to get the most out of the benefits and privileges of the position.”
According to information gathered by an investigative team, the PDP candidates said, González paid for a party to celebrate her swearing-in as resident commissioner. Although the party was for her, the PDP members said “she did not put in a penny.” The reception was in a room of the Sofitel Hotel in Washington, D.C., which cost $18,105.81, paid for with campaign funds, and with music by a salsa, merengue and cumbia orchestra, Pablo Antonio and the Firm, at a cost of $2,600, they said.
Likewise, Matos García and Calderón Cerame said, on a trip to Israel from Aug. 6, 2017 to Aug. 14, 2017 that was paid for by the American Israel Education Foundation, the resident commissioner spent $7,009.56 on “Business Class” transportation, $1,351.81 on meals and $1,613.66 on other expenses, such as $50 on snacks and $31.25 on bottled water.
“At that time, Jenniffer stayed at the 5-star Hotel King David in Jerusalem at a cost per night of $321 and at the Scots Hotel … in Tiberia at a cost per night of $270,” Matos García said. “Jenniffer González traveled to Puerto Rico from March 1, 2018 to March 6, 2018. The trip was paid for by the Republican Main Street Partnership, where she spent $567 on transportation, $567 on accommodation and $163 on food.”
Meanwhile, Calderón Cerame pointed out that “the [resident] commissioner also stayed at the Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino in Condado, one of the few hotels to open after the effects of Hurricane Maria, where the room was $189 per night.”
“Even living in Puerto Rico, she preferred the luxury of a hotel to meet with members of the NPP and her Republican Party,” the candidate said. “Later in the year, González was in Spain from September 16 to 19, 2018, [on a trip] paid [for] by the Fundación Consejo España-Estados Unidos, where she spent $4,700 on transportation, again in ‘Business Class,’ and reporting $250 consumed in meals, $1,200 in lodging expenses and $130 in other expenses. On that trip, she was at the Hyatt Regency Hesperia in Madrid, which has a cost per night of $290.”
During the presentation to the press held at PDP headquarters in Puerta de Tierra, the candidates also said the resident commissioner traveled to England from Dec. 13 to Dec. 18, 2018. That trip was paid for by Ken Weinstein of the Hudson Institute, and the Henry Jackson Society, and included $5,449.09 in “Business Class” transportation expenses, $686.77 for food and $821.50 for lodging, they said.
The PDP candidates noted that while the commissioner traveled the world, Congress discussed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (known as the Farm Bill), the measure that banned cockfighting. This measure was introduced, as the HR 2, on April 12, 2018.
On May 18, 2018, then-Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) introduced the amendment to the Farm Bill to eliminate cockfighting and Jenniffer González failed in her attempt to stop those amendments.
“It took seven months until the law that buried this important industry and cultural tradition of ours was finally signed and Jenniffer was unable to reverse the damage,” Matos García said. “In those seven months, Jenniffer traveled to more than 10 countries.”
The legislator said González traveled to the cities of Tokyo, Fukushima and Sendal in Japan from Feb. 17 to Feb. 23, 2019, with charges to the U.S. Association of Former Members of Congress for expenses of $11,635.01 for transportation, $1,336.80 for lodging and $700 for food. On that trip the resident commissioner had several formal dinners at renowned restaurants in Japan such as Mon cher ton ton, Shinjuku Sumitomo, where she spent 12,960 yen, which at the official exchange rate of $123 to 21,000 yen, represents $256, Matos García said.
Last week, González Colón denied in an interview with the Star that her trips had been paid for with public funds from the commonwealth. She said they were all paid for by Congress and that meanwhile she has brought nearly $121 billion to the island through her work as resident commissioner.
“Trips that did not cost the people of Puerto Rico a penny, but that have produced more than $121 billion for the island,” she said. “These are trips paid for by Congress in my function as a congressman, as a member of committees.”