Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Lacking Contract Details, Senate Confirms Puerto Rico Public Security Secretary

By on May 9, 2017

Héctor Pesquera was designated to serve as secretary in the newly-created Public Security Department. The decision was announced mere days before Puerto Rico's national strike on May 1. (Courtesy)

Héctor Pesquera was designated to serve as secretary in the newly created Public Security Department. The decision was announced mere days before Puerto Rico’s May 1 general strike. (Courtesy)

SAN JUAN – Without holding a public hearing or having knowledge of the details of his contract or the salary he will earn, on Monday evening the Senate confirmed Héctor Pesquera as the first secretary of the recently created Public Security Department (DSP for its Spanish initials), a position Gov. Ricardo Roselló nominated him for nine days ago.

The Senate, however, left its consideration of the amendments to the Penal Code on the table.

The Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Senate delegation, as well as Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) Sen. Juan Dalmau and independent Sen. Vargas Vidot, opposed the confirmation of the DSP secretary.

In fact, the report from the Nomination Committee that accompanied Pesquera’s confirmation in the Senate included statements made by various officials when Pesquera was evaluated for the Police superintendent post in 2012. Among these, the statements of Guillermo Gil Bonar stand out, who was a U.S. Attorney although he no longer occupies that position. Gil stated that Pesquera is capable of solving the problems within the Police Department.

The report also quotes now retired federal Judge José Fusté, who recognized Pesquera’s qualities. Fusté retired last year amid a scandal involving a claim of sexual harassment against him.

Where is the transparency? We confirmed two secretaries today without holding public hearings. The secretary of the Transportation & Public Works Department [DTOP by its Spanish initials] [Carlos Contreras], who has an excellent background, but without a public hearing… Who will run the Police now, the colonel [Michelle Hernández] or Pesquera?” asked PDP Sen. Cirilo Tirado, who also criticized the non-disclosure of the details surrounding the nominee’s contract.

“We should not be worried about what Pesquera is going to cost us, but rather how many lives he will save… This is not a matter of dollars and cents. This is a matter of security and of Puerto Ricans lives,” argued New Progressive Party (NPP) Sen. Miguel Romero, who praised the nominee’s 40-year career at the FBI.

The PIP senator criticized the complementing of Pesquera’s career in law enforcement, when the DSP groups eight entities, including some in areas of emergency management. He rejected the nomination because of Pesquera’s statements against the pro-independence sector and his alleged ties with a convict.

“This is a person who has neither the temperament nor the character to restrain his prejudices or [restrain the urge to] state them publicly in such a blatant manner,” Dalmau argued.

For Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz, however, the lack of a public hearing or the disclosure of his salary was not enough to oppose the confirmation. Schatz then emphasized Pesquera’s qualities and experience.

Pesquera did not, however, attend his Senate confirmation. Fortaleza officials disclosed that they continue adjusting the details of his contract. In the past, Pesquera earned $283,100 as police superintendent between 2012 and 2013.

Along with Pesquera, the Senate confirmed the DTOP secretary as well as Dr. Marcos Vecchini Lugo as a member of the Tourism Co.’s board, attorney Eduardo Arosemena Muñoz  as commissioner in the Board of Commissioners to promote the uniformity of legislation in U.S. states and territories, and Francisco Rullán Caparrós as executive director of the State Public Energy Policy Office..

Amendments to the Penal Code Remain Pending

Additionally, the Senate left House Bill 743 as unfinished business. Said bill would introduce a series of amendments to the Penal Code, including the classification of wearing a hood while stopping or disrupting work at certain educational, healthcare and government facilities as a misdemeanor punishable with jail time.

The evaluation of this measure caused 17 hooded protesters to demonstrate at the Capitol’s north wing. In response, the police was activated, including the Special Weapons and Tactics Unit, or SWAT. It was a peaceful protest and did not cause any major disruptions.

The Senate introduced various additional amendments to the bill that had already been approved by the House. The changes included penalizing the stoppage of meetings at any of the three government branches, the interruption of tourism activities at hotels or airports, and the placement of signs and posters on private property without the owner’s consent with jail time.

Although the NPP delegation held a meeting that lasted several hours in which they discussed the proposed changes to the Penal Code, they left the measure on the table. It could be approved during Wednesday’s session.

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