Fri | Aug 7, 2020

Puerto Rico faces political turmoil as governor investigated

Published:Wednesday | July 8, 2020 | 12:16 AM
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez.
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez.

SAN JUAN (AP):

Puerto Rico faced the possibility of political turmoil Tuesday as the US territory’s governor welcomed an investigation into allegations that she obstructed justice amid calls from the main opposition party for a legislative probe and a possible impeachment process.

The obstruction claim was levelled by the opposition Monday over Governor Wanda Vázquez’s ousting of the island’s justice minister on Friday.

The fired official, Dennise Longo, issued a statement Tuesday saying the governor and other officials are targets of an investigation that began earlier this year involving the alleged mismanagement of supplies slated for Puerto Ricans affected by a series of strong earthquakes. Longo, who did not provide any details of the case, said she had referred that matter for investigation the day she was forced out.

Vázquez denied Longo was removed in retribution for the probe, saying that she did not know she was being investigated. She said that Longo was asked to quit because of purported interference in an unrelated federal probe into possible Medicaid fraud.

NOTHING TO FEAR

The governor said she is ready to face justice if the case involving emergency supplies has merit. “I have nothing to fear,” Vázquez said during a lengthy news conference.

Vázquez was Puerto Rico’s justice secretary before the island’s Supreme Court ruled that she should be sworn in as governor after Ricardo Rosselló resigned the post nearly a year ago following huge street protests fuelled in part by anger over corruption. Shortly after Vázquez’s news conference ended, messages began circulating on social media calling for a demonstration in front of the governor’s mansion Tuesday evening.

On Monday, leaders of the opposition Popular Democratic Party announced that they had requested a legislative investigation into the allegations of obstruction of justice.

“The people need to hear from the governor herself,” said Aníbal Torres, president of the party.

He and other opposition legislators said an impeachment process should not be ruled out if necessary.