Presumptive Gov.-elect Pierluisi announces 2nd round of cabinet appointments
Labor Secretary Carlos Rivera to remain at agency
SAN JUAN — Presumptive Gov.-elect Pedro Pierluisi announced his second round of nominations to head another handful of government agencies including the Health, Agriculture, Housing, Public Housing and Family departments. He made the announcement Thursday alongside the nominees at the Casino Antiguo building in Old San Juan.
“To comply with the important mission of giving Puerto Rico a government of excellence, I reiterate that I have taken on this mandate by the people with a great sense of responsibility, and the people that I have selected demonstrate this,” Pierluisi said.
The former two-term resident commissioner announced the appointment of Carlos Mellado to head the Health Department, Ramón González as Agriculture secretary, Carmen Ana González as Family secretary, William Rodríguez to head the Housing Department and Alejandro Salgado as Public Housing administrator.
Labor Secretary Carlos Rivera was asked to remain serving in his post, and will not have to be confirmed by the island’s Senate again. All of the other appointments must be confirmed by the upper chamber in January.
“As you can see, today I continued designating officials with impeccable reputations, with the necessary preparation and proven experience,” Pierluisi assured. “And with lots of will to work for Puerto Rico. I thank them for making the step forward for Puerto Rico.”
Health Department appointee Mellado highlighted that Puerto Rico is going through atypical times amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“About a week ago, Gov. Pierluisi appointed a scientific advisory committee, in which we have different experts investigating different kinds of Covid-19 tests,” he said.
Regarding the government’s health plan, Mellado said he hopes to add some 200,000 people to its coverage, while working with the U.S. Congress to have the island treated fairly in healthcare issues.
Labor’s Rivera said the Unemployment Trust Fund has some $200 million.
“We are monitoring the funds together with the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority to add an injection from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act to inject funds in the unemployment trust account, as has been done in the past,” he said.
As for the new executive order announced Thursday by Gov. Wanda Vázquez, which adds new restrictions, including a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and a weekend alcohol ban, Pierluisi said that although he has not seen the new restrictions because he was holding his own press conference at the same time, “the governor has the right until Jan. 2 to issue Covid-19 related executive orders.”
“I trust that, together with the team that is advising her, and what I see amid the spike in positive cases and the increase in [occupied] hospital beds and intensive care unit hospitalizations, the governor is being very cautious,” Pierluisi said. “Her intention is to contain those spikes.”
Pierluisi added that the general public needs to cooperate and avoid having family activities where overcrowding may take place and continue to use surgical masks to curb the spread of the virus.
“Let’s protect ourselves and protect others,” Pierluisi pleaded. “I will be very attentive, and if I think I should make a suggestion, I will. I have direct conversations with the governor.”
Meanwhile, the Housing secretary-designate said he was humbly taking on the duty to head the agency.
“Without a doubt, this is a titanic challenge,” Rodríguez said. “The commitment made with the governor is one of execution, so we can put at the people’s disposition the close to $20 billion in federal funds received for Puerto Rico’s recovery. Our goals will be aimed at eliminating bureaucratic processes, expediting procedures and that the monies reach the people that really need them.”
Finally, Pierluisi thanked the nominees for their willingness to work for Puerto Rico.
“I am satisfied that I have appointed officials with a vocation for service, with the necessary preparation and proven experience, but above all with a desire to work for our island,” he said.
On Wednesday, Pierluisi announced the appointments of Manuel Cidre, to head the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish initials); Domingo Emanuelli, as Justice secretary; Larry Seilhamer to head the State Department; and Elba Aponte as Education secretary.
Those appointments also need to be confirmed by the Senate, but Seilhamer needs to be confirmed by the lower chamber as well.
On Wednesday as well, Pierluisi announced that Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés and Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF by its Spanish initials) Director Omar Marrero will continue heading their respective agencies. Given that both Parés and Marrero will remain in their current positions, they will not have to be confirmed by the Senate again, Pierluisi said.