Despite the continuous demands for his resignation or impeachment, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has continued with his work agenda appointing this afternoon Iris “Chiqui” Santos to head the Office of Management and Budget (OGP, by its Spanish acronym) and Walbert Pabón González to lead the Public Buildings Authority (AEP, by its Spanish acronym).
Neither of the appointments requires the approval of the Senate or the House of Representatives. But Pabón González nomination needs the confirmation of AEP’s Board of Directors.
“Today I continue to work intensely while equipping our government with talent that is committed to the ideal of a better Puerto Rico and willing to accept the challenges that this transformation entails,” Rosselló said in a press release.
Santos replaces Raúl Maldonado who was also the Treasury Secretary and the government’s chief financial officer. A month ago, Rosselló fired Maldonado after disclosing in a radio interview alleged crimes within the Treasury Department, including influence peddling, issuance of fake licenses, destruction of documents and accessing privileged taxpayer records.
According to the press release, Santos is preceded by a trajectory of more than 20 years of leadership and business experience. She was the first Latina to occupy the position of vice president and general manager of Hewlett-Packard and holds a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from the University of Puerto Rico.
Pabón González holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Ponce, and a Juris Doctor degree from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. As part of his professional career, he also served as legal director of the Puerto Rico Commerce and Exportation Company.
He replaces Josean Nazario Torres, who resigned three days ago after an investigative report of the program “Jay y sus Rayos X” uncovered alleged acts of nepotism and malfeasance in contracts granted to family members for the maintenance of schools.
In the last week, Rosselló’s has been under intense pressure as the demands for his resignation grow and he finds himself isolated. The political storm began to simmer after the former Education Secretary Julia Keleher; former Executive Director of the Health Insurance Administration Ángela Ávila; the managing partner of BDO Fernando Scherrer, Alberto Velázquez Piñol, and sisters Glenda and Mayra Ponce was accused of government corruption.
A couple of days later, the Center for Investigative Journalism published 889 pages of the governor’s Telegram chat with 12 aides and close allies.
Outrage erupted immediately due to the homophobic and misogynistic tone of the private conversations. In the chat on the encrypted messaging app Telegram, Rosselló calls one female politician a “whore,” describes another as a “daughter of a bitch” and pokes fun of an obese man he posed within a photo. The chat also contains vulgar references to Ricky Martin’s homosexuality and efforts to manipulate public opinion, discredit the work of a federal police monitor and journalists critical of Rosselló's administration.
Hours after the pages of the polemic chat were made public, two of its members resigned: the U.S. territory's CFO Christian Sobrino, who is also the governor's representative to the control board left his post immediately, but Secretary of State Luis G. Rivera Marín will leave at the end of the month.
In the last week, key allies have distanced themselves from Rossello and the appointment of a commission to analyze his possible impeachment have created doubts on his ability to build enough support to stay in office until the end of his term.