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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Resident commissioner slams DNER secretary over La Parguera incident, and Rodríguez Vega responds

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, at lectern

By The Star Staff

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón on Monday blasted Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) Secretary Anaís Rodríguez Vega for acting in what she said was an irresponsible manner following recent protests targeting the resident commissioner’s in-laws’ property at La Parguera in Lajas.

The resident commissioner also accused groups led by influencer Eliezer Molina of vandalism during the protests over alleged destruction of mangroves on the property. González Colón’s husband made certain claims to federal authorities on the matter.

“My husband accompanied his parents, who are elderly people and because my in-laws are not public figures, to claim their rights and make claims they consider legally pertinent to federal and state agencies,” the resident commissioner said at a press conference.

González Colón asked the DNER secretary to stop acting irresponsibly when making public statements about investigations into the matter that have not been completed. She said Rodríguez Vega made public certain internal agency documents about mangrove destruction that have not been provided to the parties involved.

Rodríguez Vega responded to the accusations later on Monday.

“Since the first day that I assumed the position [of interim DNER secretary prior to her eventual confirmation as secretary] … I have supported with actions my words to sanction all those violations of the environmental regulations and laws of Puerto Rico, as required by my ministerial duty and in accordance with public policy, established in our Constitution (Article VI, Section 19). All our actions are preceded by environmental and legal studies and analyses, regardless of who commits them …” the DNER secretary said in a written statement. “I deeply respect the opinions of all citizens, including those of the elected officials of the Government of Puerto Rico. However, it is important to remember that at the DNER we are committed to the protection and conservation of our natural resources, and this includes mangroves, which are vital to our biodiversity and resilience against climate change.”

“Our intervention was not a selective or irresponsible act, but rather a fulfillment of our duty as guardians of nature and the environment. If any activity has been carried out without proper permission, it is our obligation to intervene, regardless of who owns the property in question. At the DNER, we treat all complaints and active cases with deep seriousness,” Rodríguez Vega added. “The people demand transparency and the government is responding to that demand. No one who loves Puerto Rico and the conservation and protection of our nature should oppose it.”

The resident commissioner also harshly criticized the DNER secretary’s handling of a fine issued against a group of people who held an illegal party in Salinas, calling it “a joke.”

Amid reports that González Colón’s in-laws had destroyed mangroves on a property in Lajas, demonstrators tried to destroy the property, which in turn led González Colón’s in-laws to go to federal authorities last week.

The resident commissioner stressed that the whole issue of La Parguera has a political and selective overtone and should not be exclusive to one family.

She noted the negative impact the situation could have on tourism in Lajas, and stressed that the property complies with all permits and questioned the exclusivity of the focus on her in-laws’ property.

“What a coincidence that it is only my father-in-law and not any other property? Look at the $1,500 fine they issued for a bubble party in Salinas. That’s a joke,” González Colón said. “However, questions are raised about a property belonging to an elderly couple that was destroyed. And they claim that this is the exercise and vision given to Puerto Rico on how private property is treated. I disagree with that. They even attacked police officers in that supposed demonstration.”

Regarding similar situations in other coastal areas of Puerto Rico, the resident commissioner argued that properties should not be subject to special treatment or unauthorized entry and demanded that government agencies equitably comply with the law.

González Colón went on to express her displeasure with the way private property is treated in Puerto Rico and regretted the violence and harassment directed at her in-laws.

“I have been in the public arena for more than 21 years. And I’ve never seen someone’s family get attacked so mercilessly,” she said. “Let them come to me, let them talk about me, I am the public figure. But why go against my in-laws, older adults -- to try to link it to me, right? I think that is low.”

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