A Week of Puerto Rican Government Scandals, Summarized

Jul 3, 2019
5:37 PM

Ricardo Rosselló (Photo by La Fortaleza)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — If you are even mildly invested in Puerto Rican news, you’d know that this last week has been a nonstop stream of constant corruption allegations, resignations, and FBI probes. Although the FBI has confirmed that investigations are underway, most of what the public and the press know seems to be based on rumors and leaks. The only thing that feels certain is that in the coming months, subpoenas and arrests will become common, and we’ll be hearing a lot from governor Ricardo Rosselló’s administration.

To make the incoming and never-ending news cycle more digestible, we have decided to do the first ever This Week in Puerto Rico, to summarize all that happened things that have happened since June 24, the day Raúl Maldonado Gautier, former Secretary of Treasury, resigned his post.

Raúl Maldonado Fails to Show Up to Court

After being asked to resign as Secretary of Treasury, Maldonado Gautier was summoned by the Secretary of Justice, Wanda Velázquez, to appear in court and testify last Friday for the allegations he made regarding the department’s “institutional mafia.”

Maldonado Gautier failed to show up to the Department of Justice because he distrusts the process and the department, El Nuevo Día reported. His lawyer said that they believed the Secretary of Justice to be hastening the process and that Maldonado Gautier has not been given time to obtain proper legal counsel.

“Raulie” Maldonado Is Investigated by Police

The former Secretary of Treasury’s son, Raúl “Raulie” Maldonado Nieves, said via a Facebook post that the police department was investigating his firearms license. Raulie is said to own around 16 guns, all with permits.

This police investigation, which concluded after no evidence was presented, came a few days after Maldonado Nieves publicly accused Rosselló of corruption and promised to present evidence to federal authorities. 

Public Scrutiny of Chief of Staff

Rosselló’s chief of staff, Ricardo Llerandi, is under public eye once again after a recording obtained by local radio station NotiUno points to him selling tickets to investors for private events speculated to be for his boss’ re-election campaign.

Llerandi, who last week was asked to testify in front of federal grand jury in connection to an investigation of accounting firm BDO, confirmed the recording on Twitter and defended his actions, claiming that the event took place outside his work hours.

“In my spare time I have been a campaign contributor for years and it is perfectly legitimate,” he tweeted.

A federal complaint against Llerandi was filed by San Juan mayoral candidate Armando Valdés.

Health Insurance Administrator Leaves Amid FBI Probe

On June 24, the same day Maldonado Gautier was fired by Rosselló, Ángela Ávila resigned from her post as the executive director of the Health Insurance Administration (ASES, in Spanish). The organization is currently under FBI investigation for irregularities in contracts with BDO.

Heads of Infrastructure Agencies Under Fire

An investigation by Primera Hora and Jay y Sus Rayos X’s team found that the heads of Public Buildings Authority (AEP, in Spanish) and the Infrastructure Financing Authority (AFI, in Spanish) have both allegedly contracted friends and family members to work on school revitalization projects.

According to their investigation, when Josean Nazario was appointed the head of AEP, his sister-in-law’s construction company obtained a government contract of almost $1 million dollars under AFI, whose head is close friends with Nazario, and even godfather to his wedding. This connection could be a violation of the government’s code of ethics.

Rosselló Creates Lobbyist Register

Governor Rosselló signed an executive order on Tuesday that creates a register, requiring lobbyists to record their lobbying activities and also creates a transparency code for the members of the executive branch. Lobbyists must also provide a sworn statement which includes a list of their clients.

This is all part of Rosselló’s efforts to follow up on the promise to create a more transparent administration. The register will be public through the Department of Justice.

Fiscal Control Board Sues Rosselló

The Financial Oversight Board sued Governor Rosselló and the Puerto Rico Financial Advisory Authority and Fiscal Agency on Wednesday, in order to prevent Law 29 from going into effect. It was signed by Rosselló in May.

“Law 29… will eliminate the obligation of municipalities to reimburse the Commonwealth for hundreds of millions of dollars in pension costs for their own retirees,” the Fiscal Board through a press release posted on Twitter.

The board is also asking to annul two dozen laws that appoint funds that were not in the budget.

The board has accused the government of being non-compliant.


Natalia Rodríguez Medina is the 2019 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She is a member the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s Class of 2019. Natalia tweets from @nataliarodmed.