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Romero sworn in as San Juan mayor with some calling inauguration ‘an attempt against democracy’

Urges all political sectors to unite to turn island capital into a ‘city of the future’

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

With a backdrop of irregularities in the general elections, a small group of citizens outside the Alejandro Tapia y Rivera Theater in Old San Juan calling the event an “an attempt against democracy,” and a heavy deployment of Tactical Operations Division agents from the Puerto Rico Police Bureau, former New Progressive Party Sen. Miguel Romero was sworn in Monday as the 22nd mayor of San Juan.

Once sworn in by Puerto Rico Supreme Court Chief Justice Maite Oronoz Rodríguez, Romero began his inaugural speech by expressing gratitude to San Juan residents for granting him the task of leading the city.

He acknowledged later in the speech that he would be facing challenges amid “the limitations imposed on us by an economic crisis with political and social repercussions that do not seem to be coming to an end, with the aggravated challenge of setting the reconstruction of our island on course after the passage of the 2017 hurricanes and last year’s earthquakes.”

“In the case of our capital city, in addition to all of the above, there is a serious fiscal and administrative situation that is evident by the marked physical and economic deterioration of our urban environment and in the lack of response, services and attention to our people in San Juan,” Romero said.

During the speech that was attended by political figures such as Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, Senate President José Luis Dalmau, former Gov. Luis Fortuño Burset, former San Juan mayors Héctor Luis Acevedo and Jorge Santini, and former Financial and Oversight Management Board Chairman José Carrión III, Romero stated that the issues had to be addressed as “they will require all our skills and commitment, and will also require time and patience” from every citizen.

“This feat that we begin today is not about blues, yellows, reds, or greens. It is about the whole mosaic of colors that cohabit in our city,” the San Juan mayor said as he urged political sectors to unite to turn San Juan into a “city of the future.”

“That is why, this morning, with great humility, with a great sense of responsibility and with deep respect, I call on all pro-statehood, ‘populares’ [Popular Democratic Party supporters], pro-independence, Citizen Victory Movement [CVM] and Dignity Project supporters, and all San Juan residents with good will to make common cause and work together for the sake of everyone,” Romero added.

Meanwhile, Pierluisi declared his “total support” for the just sworn-in mayor, saying that both of them have decided that “2021 will be the year of reconstruction” and will guide both San Juan and Puerto Rico toward progress.

“We all want to leave political controversies behind, reject the turbulence that hurts us so much and focus on the causes that unite us, which are many,” the governor said. “We have much work to do and people have hope invested in us.”

Not defending Manuel Natal, but defending democracy

Before the inauguration began, around 15 spokespeople from the coalition Citizens for Electoral Transparency (CTE by its Spanish initials) arrived at Plaza de Colón to conduct a speaker’s corner, where they questioned the legitimacy of Romero’s victory in the general elections given the results of an audit by the Inspector General’s Office.

Spokesperson Raquel González said that as the audit pointed out issues such as a lack of rules and procedures during the transportation of electoral material, an excess of printed ballots, a mismatch of 26,454 early voting ballots between the number of certified voters and what was found in the Absentee and Early Voting Administrative Board vault, uncertainty remained in electoral contests such as the San Juan mayoral race, the race for the San Juan District 3 seat in the House of Representatives, and the Guánica mayoral race.

“There are more ballots in doubt than the votes that handed him the alleged victory [over CVM mayoral candidate Manuel Natal Albelo]. If we remove all the questionable ballots, he did not win,” González said. “Therefore, who was certified and became the San Juan mayor? A person who had the majority of the votes within votes that we are sure were legitimate, or a person who, with illegitimate votes, is alleged to have obtained a majority. That’s a very delicate matter.”

“What we are trying to say here is that you could swear in, you could put anyone in the Mayor’s office, but there’s still no clarity here, and Puerto Rico won’t accept candidates that the people did not vote for; this must be resolved,” the CTE spokesperson added. “The coalition is not here to defend a political party, but rather to defend the people’s will during a democratic process.”

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