Even though she hasn’t held many news conferences recently, the elusive governor had time to visit the most popular gossip show on the island.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez has been confrontational with the press, among the mismanagement claims on her response to the COVID-19 epidemic. Even though she has been reluctant to face the scrutiny, she agreed to have an interview with “La Comay,” a popular gossip show conducted by a puppet.
The interview went for almost an hour. We fact-checked some of Vázquez’s answers.
WATCH: Four Claims Fact-Checked
CLAIM #1: On the Importance of Public Hearings
“I don’t see how the Puerto Rican People can benefit from that in the middle of a pandemic.”
THE FACTS: The Puerto Rican House of Representatives is conducting public hearings to investigate the purchase of 1 Million rapid tests and ventilators from a company with no medical equipment experience. During the interview with La Comay, Vázquez claimed the hearings are not important, because there are other priorities.
The hearings had discovered many irregularities in the transactions. Puerto Rico lost time to buy tests and agency officials are under state and federal investigations. The island is one of the U.S. jurisdictions with the lowest per capita testing. The island depends on 200,000 serology tests, they detect the presence of antibodies raised against the virus, but they do not diagnose the disease. The molecular test is more reliable, but the government only has 1,100 kits, and it has given only 500 to hospitals.
CLAIM # 2: It’s More of the Same
“I have no communication with Mr. Elias Sánchez. No one can say that I have communication with that person.”
THE FACTS: The governor insists she has nothing to do with Elias Sánchez, a lobbyist that worked closely with the former governor, Ricardo Rosselló. Vázquez became governor after Rosselló’s resignation amidst a chat scandal, and since the general feeling is that the influence of the same group continues to control the island. She denies it.
When the scandal of the purchase of the rapid tests came to light, it came to be known that Mabel Cabeza was the right hand of the former secretary of health, Rafael Rodríguez. The purchase happened when they both worked in the agency. Cabeza is close to Sánchez, especially to his wife, the lawyer Valerie Rodríguez Erazo. When the new secretary of the Health Department, Lorenzo González, took office, he fired Cabeza. However, according to several sources, Cabeza still had support and influence in La Fortaleza, the governor’s mansion, even after she left.
CLAIM #3: On the Efficiency of the Department of Labor
“In a week, we get 900,000 calls. In one day, we get 180,000. We have solved 33% of the claims”
THE FACTS: Vázquez said the Labor Department has a new call center working extra hours. And that they are considering a 24/7 shift. She also claims that the workers in Puerto Rico are going to get two kinds of unemployment benefits, local and federal.
Thousands of workers are having trouble with the claims. Some can’t get through on the phone, others, like the self-employed, are not even allowed to file claims. According to the secretary of the Department of Labor, Briseida Torres, workers should be getting $600 from the federal government on Saturday.
CLAIM #4: On Closing the Borders and the Risks at the Airport
“For that reason, we sent many of the Health Department tests to the airport”
THE FACTS: The Gov. claims that Puerto Rico is the only jurisdiction with four types of screenings for COVID – 19 in the airport. She said that the airport has all the means to prevent the entry of potentially contagious people.
The National Guard is the one testing at the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. Until now 73 people have tested positive at arrival. and have been sent to quarantine. But the government can’t control flights coming from cities with the most positive cases.
Puerto Rico can’t close airports or piers without federal government authorization. Vázquez asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to cancel flights to the states with higher rates of positive cases like New York, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Illinois, but the agency is still reviewing the petition.
CLAIM #4: On Her Political Career and Reelection
“I always make decisions for the benefit of the people.”
THE FACTS: Vázquez claims to be an open book and a law and order woman. She considers that his image has not been tarnished by the most recent scandals. The governor is seeking reelection in the upcoming elections.