Third Governor in Two Weeks for Puerto Rico, But Same Old Politics of Betrayal

August 13th 2019

Protesters celebrate Ricardo Rossello resignation ( Daryana Rivera )

Protesters celebrate Ricardo Rossello resignation (Daryana Rivera)

By Nelson Denis

Two weeks ago, Wanda Vázquez Garced refused to become the next Governor of Puerto Rico. “Not me!” she declaimed. “Find someone else!”

Then someone escorted her up Mount Quarantania, and Vázquez changed her mind.

On August 7, 2019, Vázquez was sworn in as the 187th Governor of Puerto Rico...and in five short days, she evolved from a terrified civil servant to aspinmeister par excellence.

On Sunday August 11, Gov. Vázquez found a tiny sacrificial lamb and heaved it toward the bloodthirsty mob. She cancelled a $450,000 contract between PREPA (the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority) and Stantec, a Canadian consulting company.

The very next day, Monday August 12, Gov. Vázquez announced that she “might” declare a “state of emergency” with respect to violence against Puerto Rican women.

Both of these announcements are facially proactive: showing that this governor is a serious lady! She tackles government corruption and macho murderers, all within a 24-hour news cycle!

And that is precisely the problem…because almost immediately, Gov. Vázquez has shown her method of non-governance: 1) find easy targets, 2) grab quick and easy headlines, 3) create the appearance of action, 4) conduct this “action” in emotionally charged policy areas (i.e. domestic violence), and 5) make it difficult, preferably impossible, for anyone to measure or gauge your results.

Consider these two “proactive” announcements by the new governor.

PREPA is currently in debt for $9 billion. After Hurricane Maria, it entered a massive $300 million “power restoration” contract with a company named Whitefish, which had only three employees. Fortunately this contract was cancelled, but PREPA currently has many multi-million dollar “restoration contracts,” and a massive $1.8 billion incontracts with Mammoth Energy Services’ subsidiary Cobra Acquisitions, which are under federal investigation.

While serving as Secretary of Justice…did Vázquez investigate the Whitefish contract, the multi-million dollar contracts, or the $1.8 billion deals with Cobra?


Is she investigating them now, as governor?


Instead, she picks a relatively miniscule contract with a Canadian company, in order not to ruffle any US feathers. She then promises an “in-depth review” of all outstanding PREPA contracts, despite her complete inaction on any of them during her tenure as Secretary of Justice.

In addition, during her twenty years as a district attorney in the Puerto Rico Dept. of Justice, Vázquez never prosecuted, investigated, or even discussed PREPA’s purchase ofpoisonous sludge oil, PREPA’s falsification of lab reports, PREPA’s Ponzi scheme of municipal finance, or PREPA’s $36.7 million dollar contract with Lisa Donahue for a “financial restructuring” which never occurred.

But now as governor, she is an energy crusader…rooting out a whopping $450,000 in Canadian fraud!

Her “possible” declaration of a “state of emergency” regarding violence against women is equally facile and convenient. As a district attorney, Vázquez handled domestic violence cases, so she now draws on this career platform. But what exactly does a governmental “state of emergency” mean?

When asked if it meant municipal curfews, a revised penal code, added law enforcement, workplace monitoring, domestic violence hotlines, a public education campaign and/or curricular reform, she ignored all of these and simply stated “We will evaluate our resources and alternatives, to see what our agencies can do.”

Vázquez knows that the Financial Control Board will not allow her to expend funds or resources in any new areas, including this one. But since she can’t declare a war or pursue weapons of mass destruction, she “might” declare a “state of emergency” on violence against women. Then she’ll visit crime scenes, console victims and grab more headlines.
The people of Puerto Rico are desperate for new solutions and a new destiny. But in the end, after weeks of demonstrations and millions of people marching, they ended up with the same old politics: a career hack with no intention of discussing, let alone challenging, the deeper economic and political issues that have plagued their island for over a century.

That would require a leader.

Nelson Denis is the author of "War Against All Puerto Ricans" and a former New York State Assemblyman. BuzzFlash Editor Mark Karlin interviewed Denis about his book and the stranglehold the US has exercised over Puerto Rico in this 2015 post on Truthout.

Mark KarlinComment