Presumptive Puerto Rico governor-elect announces first cabinet nominations
Veteran businessman tapped for economic development
By María Miranda and Yanira Hernández Cabiya
SAN JUAN — Presumptive Gov.-elect Pedro Pierluisi announced the nomination Wednesday of several of his cabinet picks to head the Justice, Economic Development, Education and State departments at a media conference held at the Antiguo Casino building in Old San Juan.
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 need to be confirmed by the island’s Senate in January, once Pierluisi is sworn-in as governor.
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.
Pierluisi noted that given both Parés and Marrero will remain in their current positions, they will not have to be confirmed by the Senate again.
Pierluisi said he plans to announce additional cabinet members in the next few weeks.
“I have surrounded myself with two or three who have more gray hair than me,” Pierluisi said. “With much satisfaction and pride, today I present excellent Puerto Ricans who have said they are present to [work for] Puerto Rico,” Pierluisi said. “They have put the people above all and have given up the comfort of their private lives to put their capacity and work for the people. I am confident that the background, experience and trajectories they all have will be fundamental in achieving the Puerto Rico I have promised the people.”
Cidre, who ran for governor as an independent candidate in 2016, has a long career as an entrepreneur. In 2004, he was appointed by then-Gov. Sila María Calderón to lead a long-term plan for the island, dubbed “Puerto Rico 2025.”
At the time, Cidre spoke about changing the government’s economic model to one “of entrepreneurship and non-dependence.” His nomination coincides with federal and local initiatives aimed at fostering the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries in Puerto Rico by attracting U.S. companies.
He stressed that she hopes to work hand in hand with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González to promote the establishment on the island of pharmaceutical manufacturing companies and Puerto Rico as an air transshipment hub.
Cidre said his agenda will focus on results in the creation and retention of jobs, expediting permits and reducing the cost of doing business to restore confidence in Puerto Rico and the capital markets
“My commitment is and will be to advance the economic policy of the administration of the elected governor, hand in hand with a brand that distinguishes us around the world,” Cidre said when accepting the challenge to head the DDEC. “My role will be focused on the efficiency of the management structure, administration and transparency,” he said.
“The economic development topic has been treated in Puerto Rico as a strategy every four years,” Cidre said. “And, economic development cannot be a strategy every four years. So what we have today is a reaction to some changes that sometimes have not been measured from administration to administration that don’t contribute to creating that necessary internal wealth.”
Cidre stressed that a clear difference must be established between what economic activity and wealth consist of.
“They are two very different things,” he assured. “For example, the federal funds, all that reconstruction that the governor wants to do and that we are going to do, the jobs and public works that we are going to create, if that doesn’t turn into permanent economic development, if that doesn’t become internal permanent wealth, it will then become an economic activity that expires. And that is precisely what we will do, give continuity to projects that are convenient and that are necessary.”
Pierluisi also pointed out that Secretary of State-designate Seilhamer would lead the direction of a working group “that will be in charge of speeding up the reconstruction projects of infrastructure projects, our schools and our environment.”
Seilhamer stressed that his appointment is a manifestation “of what the people are demanding.” He thanked the expressions of support received by members of the opposition Popular Democratic Party such as Juana Díaz Mayor Ramoncito Hernández, former Senate President Eduardo Bhatia and former Gov. Alejandro García Padilla. “That motivates me that there is confidence that we can work in consensus,” he said.
“It’s time to take off the blue shirt, the red shirt, the yellow shirt, and everyone put on the Puerto Rico shirt. That is my calling and that is going to be my role,” he said, adding that he is seen as a liaison between the executive branch and legislative branch, to which he belonged until two years ago. “I have the ability to work with people who are not affiliated with my party. One has a command of legislative issues,” he said.
For his part, Justice Secretary-designate Domingo Emanuelli acknowledged that he will start directing an agency with an image lacerated by the actions of the past secretaries.
“I come with a promise to this country. I am committed to working, seeking the best talent, men and women who not only come to accuse but also to protect the human rights of those who live on this island,” he declared.