Governor delivers address to Puerto Rico amid criticism
SAN JUAN — Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced delivered her first State and Budget message Thursday afternoon amid criticism from partisan minorities alleging that she does not comply with the provisions of the Constitution of Puerto Rico for this type of message.
The Constitution provides, in Article 4, that the governors must present to the Legislature “at the beginning of each period of ordinary sessions, a message on the situation of the Nation and also submit a report on the conditions of the Treasury of Puerto Rico and the proposed disbursements for the following financial year. Said report will contain the necessary data for the formulation of a legislation program.”
The speech came just under two weeks before the end of the last legislative session since the general elections and when the fiscal oversight board already presented to the Legislature its version of the budget for the next fiscal year.
The president of the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Aníbal José Torres, filed a complaint against Vázquez Garced to the State Election Commission (CEE in Spanish), for alleged violations of the Electoral Law as a result of the message that the governor is preparing to present.
“A few hours ago, as we announced yesterday, the Popular Democratic Party filed the complaint against the Governor in the State Election Commission for violating the Electoral Law,” Torres said in a statement.
“The Popular Democratic Party insists that the message that the Governor will present today is a political rally in which public funds are used to campaign in an election year,” said Torres.
“Both the governor and the Parliamentary Majority know that it has the sole purpose of being a political projection event for Wanda Vázquez ahead of the August primaries. Without a doubt, what the country will hear today is an attempt by the NPP [New Progressive Party] administration to deceive the country about the government’s administration,” he concluded.
The governor delivered her address at the Antonio Paoli Festival Hall of the Performing Arts Center in Santurce.
Most opposition lawmakers did not attend.
NPP political strategist Ángel Cintrón said in a television interview shortly before the message (Noticentro) that it cannot be argued that this is a State Message or a Budget Message, because she will need a lot to justify it.
Vázquez Garced also has a good part of her party’s leadership against her, which is aligned with her NPP gubernatorial challenger, Pedro Pierluisi.
The Antonio Paoli Hall has a 1,900-seat capacity, but only 30% of its occupancy was used to allow for physical distancing between guests amid the health emergency.
The event was attended, for the first time, the governor emphasized, by a representative of the president of the United States, Rear Adm. Peter Brown, Trump’s Special Representative for Puerto Rico’s Disaster Recovery at the White House.
“Last week, we sent a letter to the president of the House of Representatives, Carlos ‘Johnny’ Méndez, to inform him that the State and Budget Message, which must be delivered in compliance with Article IV of the Constitution of Puerto Rico, would not be held in the chamber of said legislative body due to the limitation of space,” Vázquez said in a press release, which adds that the “request was accepted” by the House speaker.
The statement sent by the La Fortaleza executive mansion included an excerpt from the speaker’s reply: “I understand that the Constitution requires that the message be delivered at the Capitol, pursuant to Articles IV, III, I, as it is the seat of the Legislative Assembly in said building. However, in the spirit of maintaining social distancing because of COVID-19 and that important and essential matters for the people of Puerto Rico do not deviate from public opinion, we grant your request.”