Speaker Perelló: I’m resigning to protect fellow lawmakers
SAN JUAN – Jaime Perelló resigned from his position as Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Monday afternoon. He announced his resignation in the Capitol rotunda next to an original text of the Puerto Rico Constitution.
Perelló was accompanied by House Majority Spokesperson for the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Charlie Hernández; Rep. Rafael“Tatito” Hernández, Treasury Committee chairman, and José “Conny” Varela, Government Committee chairman in the House.
Even though Perelló agreed Sunday to cede administrative functions to House Vice President Roberto Rivera Ruiz de Porras during the course of the trial, Bernier insisted he should resign.
Perelló said he would be transferring the House’s presidency to House Vice President Roberto Rivera Ruiz de Porras, whom he hugged. He did not give up his at-large seat in the legislature after the Popular Democratic Party threatened to remove support from fellow lawmakers who insisted on supporting him.
In an emotional speech, Perelló defended his administrative work as House speaker and praised the legislators who accompanied him.
“Over the past 48 hours, all the colleagues here and those who are not or who are on their way…have received undeserved pressure…to push them into ceding their conviction to support this speaker using as a basis the threats that they will not be supported,” he said, adding that he was resigning to protect fellow lawmakers whom he described as his “warriors of light.”
Speaking to a huge crowd of Capitol employees and fellow lawmakers gathered at the Capitol rotunda, at the start of the news conference, Perelló appeared at times as if he would start crying but would immediately be comforted by fellow lawmakers next to him.
Perelló left his position after meeting with 16 lawmakers at the Capitol to discuss a trial underway in federal court of three former House employees under his direct supervision who were charged in a pay-for-play scheme to benefit the former speaker’s fundraiser, Anaudi Hernández. During the trial Monday, Hernández said he raised more than $60,000 in cash for Perelló as part of a pyramid scheme organized by attorney Irvin Faccio in which he was required to raise $75,000 for the House leader.
Before announcing his resignation, Perelló spoke about his achievements at the helm of the House, which included making it the “People’s House,” allowing citizens to file bills, passing incentives for small and midsize businesses and making proceedings more transparent by airing them online.
Perelló added he was resigning from his position to ensure the unity of the party’s delegation in the House and avoid being “an excuse” in the party’s future.
Although his eldest son told him to not resign, Perelló said there were other considerations of higher importance to be taken into account. He thanked his wife for the support she gave him during the very difficult moment.
He then assured all the Capitol employees that he has done nothing wrong or been accused of any criminal act.
After learning of the resignation, PDP President and gubernatorial candidate David Bernier tweeted that “the right thing was done.”
Eva Llórens contributed to this report.