Puerto Rico Popular Democratic Party’s Ferrer passes away
SAN JUAN – The president of Puerto Rico’s Popular Democratic Party (PDP), Héctor Ferrer Ríos, passed away Monday in San Juan’s Auxilio Mutuo hospital after fighting esophageal cancer since 2015.
The attorney served as a lawmaker in the island’s House of Representatives from 2001 to 2012, and presided over his party from 2017 to October 2018.
In a statement, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who is currently abroad, said: “It is with great regret that we received the news of the death of Héctor Ferrer Ríos, a good Puerto Rican who had to face and fight his fiercest battle against a terrible disease.
“To his parents, children, family and friends, [first lady] Beatriz and I send our solidarity…in this difficult moment.
“Puerto Rico and the Popular Democratic Party, to whom Héctor dedicated his life, today lost a great human being who defended his political thought and what he understood was the best for our People at all times.
“Today I received the sad news of the physical departure, not of a political opponent, but of a friend, because despite our different views, Héctor was always willing to dialog, to build bridges, to seek consensus for the sake of the island; and today my prayers go out for his eternal rest.
“I invite the Puerto Rican people to honor his memory, for which I declare five days of mourning, which begin tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6.”
In August, Ferrer stepped down from the PDP presidency to focus on his health. Sen. Aníbal José Torres was elected as president of the party. His presidency will be ratified at a Dec. 2 assembly.
Ferrer Ríos was born March 27, 1970, in San Juan. He earned a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in economics and industrial relations from the University of North Carolina, where he was accepted on a baseball scholarship. He then received a Juris doctor from the School of Law of Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. In March 1997, he had one of the top 10 bar exam scores. After graduating, he began his private practice as an attorney.
Ferrer was elected to the Puerto Rico House of Representatives in the 2000 general elections to represent District 29, which includes the municipalities of Cayey, Cidra and Comerío. From 2001 to 2004, he served as alternate spokesperson of the PDP delegation and chairman of the Ethics; Federal and International Affairs; and Consumer Affairs committees.
From 2003 to 2004, he served as co-chair of the Council of State Governments, a nonpartisan, nonprofit that serves all three branches of state government, and was a member of its Executive Committee.
In 2004, he was elected representative-at-large and House spokesperson for the PDP until 2008. From 2009 to 2012, he again served as the spokesperson for the party.
Ferrer stood out for his legislation concerning social justice and especially for his efforts on the island’s economic development. From 2004 to 2008, he directed the Legislative Economic Caucus and authored several laws specifically on economic development.
He authored more than 100 laws, among which, in the healthcare area is the law that created the Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of Puerto Rico, to help research and fight the disease; and the law that includes all Puerto Rico patients in the jurisdiction of the Patients Advocate Office. In addition, he co-authored a law that improved nurse pay.
He also authored the Voluntary Law for the Identification and Safety of Our Children. He also created a pension for former world boxing champions, authored the law that guarantees inmate needs are evaluated every 12 months to ensure to help their rehabilitation and increase public safety, and another law to grant benefits to the children of inmates. In 2006, he created the law that expands the payment options of teachers’ fees to the Retirement System.
Ferrer Ríos co-authored other important laws such as one that empowers municipalities to contract to offer employees daycare center service; one that prohibits the use of the Social Security number in government identification cards; and the law that allows raising the limit of the additional contributions individuals age 50 or older can make under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.
He was a faithful defender of sports, paying special attention to the needs of schools, baseball and basketball teams, and organizations that advocate keeping youth healthy. He was also a university professor; and testified on several occasions before U.S. House and Senate committees and before the United Nations, and lectured at Stanford University.
Ferrer Ríos is survived by his parents, a brother, two sons and a daughter.
–Cybernews contributed to this report.