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Vázquez Garced: Intervention with Facebook accounts was ‘to comply with the law’

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said Monday that the island Justice Department’s intervention with almost 3,000 Facebook accounts as part of a criminal investigation against students who interrupted a meeting of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) governing board to protest a tuition payment increase in 2017 was “to comply with the law.”

Furthermore, she said, the intervention was due to a series of complaints reported by the social media outlet, as many users reported having their accounts hacked by unknown sources.

“We at the Department of Justice, back when I was secretary, we were complying with the law, and anyone who violated it, had to respond,” Vázquez Garced said. “If there was a complaint related to Facebook, our obligation as the secretary of Justice and the Criminal Division was to conduct an investigation. If someone believed we did something wrong, they should let us know.”

Meanwhile, she said she guaranteed that prosecutors designated for the case against now ex-students Randiel Negrón, Thaliangelys Torres, Francisco Santiago Cintrón, Verónica Figueroa Huertas and Gabriel Díaz Rivera conducted an investigation to determine every “inappropriate intervention” with certain citizens who were involved with the aforementioned complaints.

“The Department of Justice did not start an investigation against anyone, because you all know how Facebook posts work; they have no names, they are identified confidentially to protect people’s identity,” she said. “This demand was not only in Puerto Rico, but also around the United States. What we did was to protect every Puerto RIcan who had their accounts hacked.”

According to independent news outlet Puerto Rico Te Quiero, although it was known that authorities obtained information from community managers of Facebook pages Centro de Comunicación Estudiantil, Pulso Estudiantil y Diálogo, such as credit card information, account numbers on the outlets and private conversations, Juan Ramón Acevedo Cruz, one of the lawyers representing the former UPR students involved in the case, said that inquest was meant “to open a massive number of files” against almost 3,000 individuals. It is worth noting that only 50 to 100 students were involved in the protest inside the UPR office.

“The defense is ready to show soon, to a court and the people, a list that includes the names of every person whose Facebook accounts were raided,” Acevedo Cruz said. “We are saying that they, both the Department of Justice and the Puerto Rico Police [Bureau], searched for the data of almost 3,000 people that they saw on Facebook. It is a massive blacklist.”

Today, the case continues to be reviewed in San Juan Superior Court, Room 1105. It is expected that part of the review will reveal new information on the three-year old investigation.

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