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Senate president defends confirmation of Puerto Rico secretary of Public Security

By on May 8, 2017

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz defended that legislative body’s decision to confirm Héctor Pesquera‘s designation as secretary of Public Security without holding a public confirmation hearing.

He also said their would be changes made to the executive branch’s proposed amendments to the Penal Code because he has “serious reservations” about them.

For the Senate president, it sufficed that the public was asked to publicly express its comments on the designation, whether—positive and negative—through emails.

“We met with the union leaders from the Puerto Rico Police. All of them expressed their support. So it has been a nomination where there has been room for everyone who wanted to express themselves to do that,” Rivera Schatz told reporters after a legislative meeting with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in La Fortaleza. These meetings with the unions were held behind closed doors.

Despite the absence of a public hearing, “[Pesquera’s designation] was opened for consultation; this hasn’t been a secret. Mr. Pesquera will be confirmed today without a doubt,” said the senator, who believes that Popular Democratic Party (PDP) minority lawmakers “had the opportunity to ask him everything they wanted” when he was appointed superintendent of the Police in 2012.”

Rivera Schatz also justified the speedy process to confirm Pesquera—designated as secretary nine days ago—because he believes it is important to implement the law that created the Public Security Department.

However, Pesquera’s salary remains a mystery because officials at La Fortaleza have reported that they are still adjusting the contract’s details. Pesquera earned $283,100 when he served as Police superintendent between 2012 and 2013.

More Changes to the Penal Code

Moreover, Rivera Schatz said that House Bill 743, which amends the Penal Code, will undergo changes in the Senate.

“I have serious reservations [with the bill approved in the House]. I can’t accept that someone be arrested before a cause  has been determined … That won’t be passed by the Senate,” the legislator said about one of the amendments.

The senator, however, defended the amendment included in the measure that makes it a crime to wear a hood to protest and stop operations at an educational, health or government institution.

Wearing a hood to protest isn’t a crime, but it could become one

“We will examine that language. I believe there needs to be legislation that criminalizes the use of a disguise or hood in certain circumstances… Whoever has to wear a hood to defend their cause, it’s because it is not a fair cause, it borders on the criminal,” Rivera Schatz said in a WKAQ radio interview.

Currently, the use of hoods during protests is legal and is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, unless worn to hide while committing a crime or as a disguise to escape or avoid arrest (Article 248 of the Penal Code).

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