Puerto Rico governor fires more cabinet ministers after Hurricane Maria supplies discovered

Kate Ng
Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez speaks at a news conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico: REUTERS

Puerto Rico’s governor Wanda Vazquez announced the dismissal of two more cabinet officials on Sunday — the latest fallout over the discovery of a warehouse full of emergency supplies intended for Hurricane Maria relief.

Glorimar Andujar, the secretary of family service, and Fernando Gil-Ensenat, the secretary of housing, were sacked on Sunday, becoming the most recent cabinet members to lose their jobs after the dismissal of the director of Puerto Rico’s Office of Emergency Management, Carlos Acevedo, who was fired on Saturday.

Mr Acevedo was fired just hours after a video was circulated on Facebook showing angry people breaking into the warehouse, in an area where thousands have been living in shelters since a recent earthquake.

At a news conference discussing the dismissals, Ms Vazquez said: “There have been actions by government officials that have been completely unacceptable.

“Under my administration, nobody can come to me with lies. I have a commitment [to the people of Puerto Rico]. Public officials with me have the same commitment.”

She said the decision to fire the two ministers was made after they failed to provide information she requested about other collection and distribution centres.

“They weren’t able to personally tell me specifically where these centres were located, what they contained and whether an inventory was completed,” she said.

Blogger Lorenzo Delgado posted a live video of the warehouse after receiving a tip about it, revealing its contents of water bottles, cots, baby food, and other basic supplies that had been apparently sitting untouched since Hurricane Maria battered the US territory in September 2017.

The warehouse is located in the southern coastal city of Ponce, where a recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the region, killing one person and displacing 7,000 people into shelters as strong aftershocks continue.

Ponce Mayor Maria Melendez told The Associated Press she was outraged by the discovery as she and other mayors had been trying to locate basic supplies since the earthquake hit.

“I spent several days requesting cots and water,” she said. “They sent me to Cabo Rojo for the cots and to San Juan for the water.

“If I had known that those supplies were there, I would have demanded that they be taken out immediately.”

Ms Vazquez responded to questions on how it was possible she did not know about the existence of the warehouse by saying: “That’s what the head of agencies are for… to inform the governor.”

She added her concerns that the discovery of the warehouse and ensuing fallout would affect Puerto Rico’s standing in Washington, which temporarily retained some federal funds for Maria relief amid corruption and mismanagement fears.

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