SAN JUAN, July 7 (Reuters) - Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced on Tuesday denied allegations that a probe into her office’s handling of federal emergency supplies led to the dismissal of the island’s top law enforcement official.
Vazquez said Friday’s resignation of Justice Secretary Dennise Longo Quiñones was justified because Longo intervened in a federal investigation into Medicaid spending during the time Longo’s mother served as undersecretary of the island’s health department.
“I was never informed about any investigation against me,” Vazquez told reporters.
Since filing for bankruptcy in 2017, the U.S. commonwealth has been hit by devastating hurricanes, earthquakes and the coronavirus pandemic, and has been the target of increased federal scrutiny into its use of U.S. aid.
The island has also been the scene of political upheaval, as massive protests a year ago led to the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello, who was briefly replaced by Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s former Congressional representative. After Pierluisi’s appointment was declared unconstitutional, Vazquez, who was then justice secretary, reluctantly took over as governor on Aug. 7.
In a statement, Longo said she recused herself from matters involving the health department and that she had been in the process of preparing a report to the independent prosecutor’s office regarding her investigation into the governor’s office when she was asked to leave.
Puerto Rico Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz on Tuesday called on the prosecutor’s office to determine whether or not that probe should proceed.
On Monday, Jenniffer González Colón, Puerto Rico’s non-voting representative in the U.S. Congress, said the island was tired of controversy and that the “very serious” allegations must be investigated.
Vazquez faces Pierluisi in the island’s August primary election to be the New Progressive Party’s candidate for governor.
Reporting by Ricardo Arduengo in San Juan; Additional reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Richard Chang