• The Star Staff

Pierluisi believes ballot containers found at SEC will not change results of gubernatorial race

By The Star Staff

Governor-elect Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia on Tuesday rejected assertions that more than 170 ballot containers found at the State Elections Commission will change the preliminary results of the gubernatorial race.

“Basically the [ballot containers] have nothing to do with the candidacy for governor. They are ballots for other races, not for the governor’s race,” Pierluisi said at a press conference. “The only thing that is pending to be counted for the candidacy for governor are the votes added by hand that are likewise counted by hand. It is impossible for there to be a change in the result at the level of the candidacy for governor and the same goes for the resident commissioner’s race.”

“What can happen is that when counting what has not been counted there may be changes in races where the margin of difference is very narrow,” he added.

Pierluisi was speaking at a news conference to announce that the government transition process is slated to start next week.

Meanwhile, in response to a question about calls for the island Education Department to have a protocol ready for the resumption of face-to-face classes, he said that over the past year, hundreds of students have not been able to receive an education because they don’t have either internet or laptops, and that can’t continue to be the case.

“I believe that today it is not possible to decide what the date will be for schools to reopen gradually and partially. Today, I cannot make that decision,” Pierluisi said. “What I have claimed for a long time is that there must already be a plan and clear protocols as to how the public education system in Puerto Rico is going to be reopened gradually and partially and even regionally. When is that [reopening] going to take place? That is what cannot be decided now.”

Pierluisi spoke favorably of private schools that have established their protocols, but the government has prohibited them from returning to in-person instruction.

“I know that there are private schools that have been prepared and that they have their protocols and that they are asking for approval,” the governor-elect said. “I am not making that decision right now, but I think that the secretary of Health and the secretary of Education should establish what the mechanism or protocol is so that a private school that is properly prepared and that is requesting to reopen can begin to have face-to-face education.”

Pierluisi requested that the Education Department publish such a plan if it has one.

“My recommendation is that a full press conference be held in which it is revealed how this would be done for the good of all so that the people, the teachers and the parents of the children are informed,” he said. “Do it. They should do it now.”

Pierluisi said he is confident that the incoming federal government will give him “the benefit of the doubt” in terms of monitoring the handling of federal funds so that they can be disbursed.

“Because of my career and because of the credibility that I have earned, because of the years I served in Congress, I know that they will have some deference with me, so that this government can start without major obstacles,” he said. “On the contrary, they will do what is possible to facilitate it.”

Pierluisi noted that he has already had conversations with the White House federal coordinator, Peter Brown, and officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Regarding the permanence of the federal monitors appointed to the island as a result of corruption cases, the governor-elect said he will wait for the public policy of President-elect Joseph Biden on the matter.

When asked about the pending Financial Oversight and Management Board appointments, the governor-elect said he will wait to see if outgoing President Donald Trump makes the appointments, or if they are left to Biden.

“I know that the process is ongoing,” he said. “It remains to be seen if the president will make any appointment from the shortlists that were submitted to him. We will know that in the near future.”

Except for the one oversight board member designated by Trump, Justin Peterson, the remaining members of the federal entity created by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act have completed their terms and are waiting for replacements to be appointed.