Gov. Vázquez Begins Discussing Transition with Pierluisi
SAN JUAN — Gov. Wanda Vázquez met with New Progressive Party (NPP) gubernatorial candidate Pedro Pierluisi Thursday afternoon at the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza, to begin discussing her administration’s transition process.
With 95.69 percent of the votes tallied as of Thursday afternoon, Pierluisi was leading the gubernatorial race with 390,330 votes, or 32.68 percent, followed by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Carlos “Charlie” Delgado, who received 376,226 votes, or 31.5 percent.
Although the State Elections Commission (CEE by its Spanish initials) has not officially certified Pierluisi as the governor-elect, the former two-term resident commissioner, told reporters that the transition process has to begin even if the other candidate has yet to concede defeat.
CEE President Francisco Rosado Colomer issued a preliminary certification of the gubernatorial election results just before midnight Tuesday, in which he stated: “This partial result does not constitute nor should it be interpreted as a final result.”
Vázquez, meanwhile, said she spoke with Pierluisi about pressing issues such as healthcare, the Covid-19 pandemic, education and reconstruction plans.
“We spoke about the plans that are being worked on related to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the plans to comply with the federal funds that were recently assigned; the $2 billion for the Education Department and the $10 billion for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Both plans should be ready by Dec. 24,” the governor said.
Vázquez said the government transition process, which is slated to begin shortly, will take place at the State Department in Old San Juan and that her transition team will be led by Secretary of State Ramón Márquez and Chief of Staff Antonio Pabón, while Pierluisi said he would reveal the members of his transition committee over the next few days, but did say will be headed by Bayamón Mayor Ramón Luis Rivera.
When asked by the media why the transition process was already being planned with Pierluisi despite the CEE not having certified him as governor-elect, the candidate replied that he was leading the race and a recount was not expected.
“There is no time to waste,” Pierluisi said. “The transition has to take place.”
Among the other issues discussed, Pierluisi said that he wanted to speak with the governor in detail about the island’s reconstruction process, so he could have a better idea about the projects that are already underway so he can follow up on them.
He further noted that he was concerned about the fact that thousands of public school students have yet to receive computers so they can study online due to the pandemic.
“Not all students have computers,” he stressed. “So the concept of remote education concerns me.”
Vázquez chimed in, noting that the hope is that by the next semester, students can begin a hybrid education, where they go to school several days a week and study remotely on the rest of the weekdays.
“We want to be able to announce as soon as possible when in-person classes will begin,” Vázquez said.
Another matter discussed was the fact that the number of police force officers has dropped drastically.
“We have to improve our Police Academy and we need to hire more police officers,” Pierluisi stressed. “I have proposed that some retired police officers who wish to return to the job, without affecting their pensions, can do so.”
With regard to working with a Legislative Assembly majority composed of PDP lawmakers, Pierluisi said he doesn’t foresee any difficulties with the upper chamber confirming his appointments to head agencies.
“I have to think that they will work out of good faith,” he said.
He further explained that he has called on current agency heads that would like to remain in their positions to let him know so he can consider their appointments.
“I would like to evaluate three people for each of the government agency posts, and I want to interview all of them,” Pierluisi said.
On Tuesday evening, after the election’s results started to reveal that Pierluisi was winning by a narrow margin, Vázquez congratulated Pierluisi who is a former Justice secretary and two-term resident commissioner.
“I contacted Governor-elect Pierluisi by phone to congratulate him and invited him to meet tomorrow Wednesday, Nov. 3 at La Fortaleza at 11 a.m.,” the governor said. The meeting, which she said was to begin speaking about the transition process and be on the same page once he is certified by the CEE, was later pushed to Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
In addition, the governor said she is ready to comply with Act 51 of 2020 and inform the U.S. Congress about the yes-or-no plebiscite on whether Puerto Rico should be admitted as the 51st state. In the referendum, statehood prevailed with 602,078 people, or 52.26 percent, voting for annexation, and 550,080, or 47.74 percent, voting against it, with 95.69 percent if units reporting as of Thursday afternoon.