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Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi concedes defeat in surprise primary against Jenniffer González

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico Congresswoman Jenniffer González defeated Gov. Pedro Pierluisi in a primary election held Sunday by their pro-statehood party.

The two men ran on the same ticket four years ago under the New Progressive Party, but González, a Republican, announced her intention to challenge Pierluisi, a Democrat, in early December. Public discussions between the two have since become acrimonious.

Along with González, senior U.S. Navy officer Elmer Román, Puerto Rico’s former secretary of state, is running for resident commissioner, while Puerto Rican senator William Villafañe is seeking the position under Pierluisi.

Earlier Sunday, Puerto Rico Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz defeated Sen. Juan Zaragoza in primaries held by his Popular Democratic Party, which supports the island’s territorial status and seeks to return to power in the upcoming general election .

Zaragoza conceded defeat after receiving 38% of the vote to Zaragoza’s 62%, although only just over 60% of the vote was counted.

All candidates face disgruntled voters on an island still dealing with chronic power outages and awaiting the completion of rebuilding projects following Hurricane Maria, which hit as a Category 4 storm in September 2017 .

THIS IS A LATEST UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico Rep. Jesús Manuel Ortiz defeated Sen. Juan Zaragoza in a gubernatorial primary held Sunday by his Popular Democratic Party, which is seeking to return to power in upcoming elections general.

Zaragoza, who was highly praised for his work as the island’s former Treasury secretary, conceded defeat after receiving 38% of the vote to his rival’s 62%, although only just over half votes were counted.

Governor Pedro Pierluisi was still engaged in what appeared to be a losing battle against Puerto Rico Congresswoman Jenniffer González in the primaries hosted by the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. The two men ran on the same ticket four years ago, but González announced in early December that she was challenging Pierluisi.

Alongside Pierluisi for Congressional Representative was Puerto Rico Senator William Villafañe, while U.S. Navy military officer Elmer Román, former Puerto Rico Secretary of State, ran for the position under González.

Lawyer Pablo José Hernández ran unopposed to be the Popular Democratic Party’s candidate for resident commissioner, the first person in 20 years to seek that nomination.

As the results came in Sunday evening, the Puerto Rico Elections Commission’s page crashed, frustrating those closely following the primaries. Officials said they were rushing to resolve the problem, saying they did not know the cause but that U.S. Homeland Security and other agencies were assisting.

“If it were necessary to activate the FBI given the situation, we would do so,” said Jessika Padilla, the commission’s acting chair.

Candidates face disgruntled voters on an island still grappling with chronic power outages and waiting for rebuilding projects to be completed following Hurricane Maria, which hit as a Category 4 storm in September 2017 .

Power outages were reported at more than a dozen voting centers, including the one where Ortiz arrived to vote, forcing officials to revert to a manual process. Heavy rain also hit parts of the island, with flood warnings issued for nearly a dozen towns.

Power outages remain such a significant concern that the State Elections Commission has rented more than a dozen generators and a private power company has identified 81 alternative voting sites with guaranteed electricity.

“It’s been years since I voted,” said Benito López, a 66-year-old retiree wearing a T-shirt that read “Island of Enchantment.” He planned to vote for a candidate he would not reveal “to see if there was any improvement and change.”

Other constituent complaints include difficulty obtaining business permits, a fragmented education system and the island’s lack of access to capital markets after the local government walked out two years ago of the largest debt restructuring in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, more than $9 billion in debt at Puerto Rico’s power company, the largest government agency, remains unresolved. A federal judge overseeing bankruptcy-like proceedings has yet to rule on a restructuring plan after tough negotiations between the government and bondholders.

“They broke Puerto Rico,” Cecilio Rodríguez said of the current and previous administrations as he waited to vote. “Economic development must be a priority.”

For other voters, ending the exodus of doctors from Puerto Rico and improving the U.S. territory’s crumbling health care system is a priority.

“It’s the patients who have to stay here and endure this. It’s not fair,” said Dr. Alfredo Rivera Freytes, an anesthesiologist who left Puerto Rico for St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, because of problems in Puerto Rico’s health care system.

He returned two years ago intending to retire, but found himself working again because of the need for anesthesiologists in Puerto Rico.

Before the primaries, Pierluisi touted record tourist numbers, hurricane rebuilding and growing economic development among his successes. He pledged to prioritize projects targeting, among others, children and the island’s growing elderly population.

An event marking the end of his campaign, held a week before the primaries, was led by former governor Ricardo Rosselló, who resigned in August 2019 after nearly two weeks of street protests sparked by a leak of crude and insulting messages between him and his summit. advisors.

Pierluisi’s opponent, González, did not run a closer campaign. She pledged to fight corruption, provide more funds to agencies to help victims of violence amid a surge in murders of women and stem the exodus of doctors and other health professionals to the continent. American.

Zaragoza had promised to give priority climate change and renewable energies, decentralize the island’s education department and improve access to health. His opponent, Ortiz, has pledged to improve the licensing process to retain doctors, simplify the island’s tax system and revamp health care.

Puerto Rico’s next governor will have to work alongside a federal control board that oversees the island’s finances and was created after the government declared bankruptcy.

Before Sunday’s primaries, more than 4,900 inmates voted in prisons across the United States. The State Board of Elections also received and counted more than 122,000 early ballots.


Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

News Source : apnews.com
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