SAN JUAN — Once again, the news cycle in Puerto Rico in the middle of a pandemic continues to spiral. Here are some of this past week’s top headlines:
Vázquez Administration Rattled by Multiple Administration Resignations
Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced was shaken up this week after reports from El Nuevo Día claimed that former Puerto Rico Attorney General Dennise Longo Quiñones recommended the designation of an independent special prosecutor against the governor just before she was asked to resign last Friday.
Longo filed the recommendation as a result of irregularities in aid provision she noticed in the aftermath of the earthquakes that rocked the south of the island at the beginning of the year. Along with the recommendation to the governor, Longo also recommended an independent special prosecutor for Puerto Rican Senator Evelyn Vázquez and her husband Peter Muller.
After Longo’s forced resignation, many others have followed by resigning from Vázquez’s administration. Wandymar Burgos, interim AG after Longo’s resignation, resigned Thursday and Brigadier General José R. Burgos, Commissioner of the island’s Emergency Management Agency (NMEAD), resigned on Monday. Former federal judge Jose Fusté resigned from the Advisory Council for the Management of Federal Programs that was organized by the Governor.
The governor claims that she was unaware of the investigations against her, and that she asked for Longo’s resignation as a result of intervention in federal investigations of the Health Department, where Longo’s mother worked as a subsecretary. However, many questioned the governor’s reasoning for the resignation, as Vázquez herself had intervened in an investigation in which her daughter was the victim of a crime during her own tenure as Attorney General. Vázquez has stated that she “[has] nothing to fear” about allegations against her.
This is the last straw for many on the island who have had enough of the governor’s excuses and inaction since her succession of Ricardo Rosselló last August. Protests in front of the governor’s mansion, La Fortaleza, have been ongoing since Wednesday, though protestors have made sure to follow safety precautions and social distancing due to COVID-19.
Puerto Rico’s Justice Secretary suggested an investigation into the Governor. And was then fired, by the Governor.
So protests calling for Governor Wanda Vazquez to resign have begun.
This is outside the Governor’s mansion now ??
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) July 8, 2020
— A u r a ☀︎︎☽ (@soldeigriega) July 9, 2020
LGBTQ Rights Activist Charged with Domestic Abuse
After more than 24 hours in detention, a judge determined cause for arrest on charges of domestic violence by LGBTQ rights activist Pedro Julio Serrano.
Serrano made the $20,000 bail set by Judge Alfrida Tomey Imbert for both charges of violations against Article 3.5 of Puerto Rico’s Law Against Domestic Violence, better known as Ley 54, and will be under electronic supervision through an ankle monitor. He was arrested yesterday at 2 p.m. after his partner submitted a protection order to police, alleging that the activist engaged in a pattern of emotional abuse and also claimed that he had been sexually assaulted. Serrano submitted a restraining order against his partner earlier that day, yet the activist was still arrested and charged after prosecutor Linette Velázquez decided to follow with the charges after interviewing his partner.
CORRECIÓN: Esta OP es a favor de Pedro J Serrano. Según me indican, él había solicitado en la mañana y se la otorgaron. Luego, en la tarde, su ex le radicó por violencia de género.
Alegadamente la policía sabe de la OP, pero decidieron dejarlo encarcelado desde ayer hasta hoy. pic.twitter.com/VlmV7qPI0k
— AlexDelgado (@AlexDelgadoPR) July 7, 2020
His stepfather, Héctor Mújica, took to Twitter the day after the activist’s arrest without having charges set against him, demanding a fair judicial process. Serrano later denounced his arrest and stated that he barely had access to his lawyers during the timeframe. The tweets seems to have since been deleted.
After knowing of his arrest, San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz published a statement through social media that Serrano was suspended without pay from his job as a consultant in charge of the Vida program and the Trans Clinic of the municipality of San Juan, effective immediately.
— Pedro Martínez (@pmartinezvelez) July 6, 2020
This is not Serrano’s first sexual assault allegation. Lawyer Luis Angelo Casiano submitted a complaint about lewd acts in December of 2017, presenting hard drives and other electronic evidence to the police in February of 2018. No legal action emerged from the allegation. La Comay, a controversial gossip show which Serrano led the boycott for its cancellation for homophobic and racist language in 2013, interviewed the alleged victim on its program right after Serrano was moved to be charged. Other allegations against Serrano also aired on the show.
Serrano’s hearing is set for July 20 at Hato Rey, with Judge Tomey Imbert presiding. The activist states that “[…]all the accusations are absolutely false. I am the victim in this case. The truth will come out through the process.”
PPD Debate Shows that PR’s Primary Process Is Still Ongoing
Yulín Cruz, Eduardo Bhatia, and Charlie Delgado Artieri participated in the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) primary debate on Thursday, the first of the island’s main parties to do so after most campaign processes were stopped by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yulín Cruz, the current San Juan mayor, has been endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders. She was also national co-chair of the Sanders 2020 presidential campaign. Bhatia was a former president and now current minority leader of the Puerto Rico Senate, as well as executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration under governor Aníbal Acevedo Vila. Delgado has been mayor of Isabela since 2001.
The candidates discussed education, health, territorial status and the transparency of the executive branch, which has been a hot topic of discussion on the island between the two main parties—the PPD and the pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP).
Whoever wins the candidacy for the PPD will go on to face Alexandra Lúgaro of the Movimiento Victoria Ciudadana party, Sen. Juan Dalmau of the Independence Puerto Rican Party and either Vázquez or former resident commissioner Pedro Pierluisi of the PNP.
Goya Remarks at White House Inspire Boricuas to Show Alternatives
After Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue’s praise of President Trump created a viral movement to boycott the company, many on the island published alternatives on social media to the brand.
— BrandsofPuertoRico (@BrandsofPR) July 10, 2020
“I was surprised because the company is supported by so many Latinos,” said Twitter user @nostalgicuItra, who is Puerto Rican, and was influenced by their grandmother who prefers to make her own seasoning instead of buying from Goya. “So when I saw that post I said y’all need to make your own seasoning or support smaller brands”
since goya supports trump here’s a thread of product replacements/recipes (from my grandmother ??)
— s ?? (@nostalgicuItra) July 9, 2020
The post quickly gained traction and inspired others to post recipes for seasoning or alternative brands to the gigantic Hispanic-focused food brand, surprising the thread’s author. “I assumed [people] wouldn’t care.”
Documentary on PR’s Most Famous Astrologer Premieres to Wide Acclaim
“Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend Of Walter Mercado” premiered this past Wednesday to accolades for showing the life of the extravagant Latino icon months before his death.
The film, directed by Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch, documents Mercado’s trajectory as a famous TV astrologer and reveals details as to exactly why Mercado was not seen in the public eye for the last few years. With appearances from celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jorge Ramos, Eugenio Dérbez, and many more, it shows how the hopeful and loving legacy of the extravagant entertainer has persisted within the Latinx community without his show being on the air—and this film is just another extension of that.
“Mucho Mucho Amor” currently has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes with 36 reviews.
Isabella Philippi Cámara is a freelance journalist who has worked for GFR Media, and is currently a rising senior in university studying communications. You can find her on Twitter @iphilippicamara.