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Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez says she has 'nothing to fear' over obstruction allegations

Gov. Wanda Vázquez denied obstruction of justice allegations, days after requesting the resignation of now former Justice Secretary Dennise Longo Quiñones.
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced during a press conference in San Juan on June 30, 2020.Ricardo Arduengo / AFP - Getty Images

Puerto Rico's governor, Wanda Vázquez, said on Tuesday she has "nothing to fear" from allegations that she obstructed justice in connection with the firing of the island's Justice Secretary.

It all started on Friday after Gov. Vázquez requested the resignation of the now former Justice Secretary Dennise Longo Quiñones "for improperly intervening in a federal investigation" looking into possible Medicaid fraud between 2014 and 2019. The governor said at a press conference Tuesday that at the time of the possible fraud, Longo Quiñones' mother was one of the people in charge of the Health Department.

Vázquez's explanation came after local media outlets reported that the governor had allegedly requested the resignation because Longo Quiñones had launched an investigation against the governor's administration for apparent mismanagement of emergency supplies after Puerto Rico was rattled by powerful earthquakes back in January.

The governor denied all obstruction of justice allegations, adding she had not been made aware or informed of an inquiry against her. However, the allegations prompted members of the island's opposition parties to call for an investigation against Vázquez for alleged abuse of power and obstruction of justice, even hinting at a possible impeachment process.

After Vázquez's press conference, Longo Quiñones said in a press release that she informed a Special Independent Prosecutor Panel back in March that the governor, as well as other high profile officials, were being investigated for allegedly mismanaging emergency supplies from a warehouse in the town of Ponce, according to El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico's largest newspaper.

Longo Quiñones' resignation came as high profile investigations at the island's Justice Department were under way, including botched hiring and purchase processes related to the island's coronavirus pandemic response as well as the Telegram chat that led to the ouster of former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló last summer amid mass protests.

Nydia Cotto, a former judge who serves as the president for the Special Independent Prosecutor Panel, told The Associated Press that someone from the Justice Department was about to drop off files on Monday related to six cases slated for investigation but abruptly left after receiving a call from an unidentified person at the Department of Justice.

“That has never happened before,” said Cotto.

Puerto Rico’s newest justice secretary, Wandymar Burgos, said in a statement that she requested the documents on the six cases after learning about their existence on Monday.

“All investigations of merit will be carried out to the last consequence, regardless of the person involved,” said Burgos.

Vázquez encouraged the Justice Department to submit all referrals from former Secretary Longo Quiñones to the Independent Prosecutor's Office and move forward with the pertinent investigations.

"The Secretary of Justice has my instructions to send that referral, if it meets all the requirements of the law," Vázquez said Tuesday. "I have nothing to fear."

On Sunday, Vázquez inaugurated her campaign committee as a pre-candidate to become the gubernatorial nominee for the New Progressive Party.

Vázquez announced last December her intentions to run for office, just four months after being sworn in as Puerto Rico's governor, following Rosselló's ouster, and becoming the island's second unelected governor in seven decades. Vázquez said Tuesday she still plans to run for governor in the upcoming elections but first faces an Aug. 9 primary.

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