Raúl Márquez assured that by being appointed as secretary of the State Department, he will cancel the contract he maintains as an advisor to the Senate – where they will pass judgment on his appointment – but he sought to distance himself from the contracts maintained by Echeandía & Asociados, his wife’s law firm.
In an interview with THE SPOKESMAN He said he was a “friend” of the former Secretary of the Interior, Ricardo Llerandi and stated that he has not yet discussed with Governor Wanda Vázquez what his salary will be.
When you were appointed, you spoke of many plans such as the economy and the management of Covid-19. How will you address that from your position in four months?
“Many times people do not understand what the Secretary of the State Department is and they do not know how the State Department works. We are not only here for relations with the consuls or with Washington. From here 23 professional boards are operated, 3-1-1, the registry of corporations, which affects the economy. We handle immigration matters, passports, we work with integrated service centers. The secretary of state, being the highest-ranking secretary, exercises functions delegated to him by the governor related to many matters within the government… I am putting together a team that is going to directly interfere in the matter of federal funds. I see this as the lever that we are going to use to move the economy ”.
You were with Ricardo Llerandi the day there was a demonstration with saucepans against you in a cafeteria. How close are you to Llerandi and the Rosselló administration?
“Ricardo Llerandi was my friend before being in politics. He was my friend while he held political office. He continues to be my friend and I hope he will continue to be my friend as long as we have life. The administration of Ricardo Rosselló ended in August 2019 and I cannot have ties with an administration that does not exist ”.
And with the participants of the Telegram chat?
“The one who is my friend is Ricardo Llerandi. The others I know from my work ”.
How many consulting contracts remain in force in your corporations and how many will continue?
“I only had a legal entity called Legislative Assessment. I had contracts in the Chamber, which I resigned in February of this year. Then, in March 2020, I obtained a contract with the Senate Advisory Office. That contract is in effect, but I can say that right now the Senate is closed and does not return until September 8. You won’t find an invoice from Raúl Márquez from August 31st. I found out a few hours before that the governor had decided to appoint me. I spent a large part of my day in Fortaleza and that morning I was in interviews and I had to buy a shirt because I have shirts in other colors, but I had to buy a white shirt and a tie. I did not work that day for anyone else. I spent it getting the appointment and bought the shirt. From the 31st you will not see anything invoiced because it is inconsistent that I am a government secretary and a contractor. I have already sent the letter requesting the termination of the contract ”.
Regarding the contracts that his wife’s law firm maintains with the Legislative Assembly and with municipalities, the official stressed that these are agreements that she maintains and said that “she does not exercise any function that conflicts with my functions.”
“It is her decision. It’s her office and she owns 100% of it. We have capitulations and we consult and talk to each other, but in the same way that she does not make decisions for me, I do not make them for her. She has her professional practice that will continue ”, he expressed.
Although salaries are stipulated by law, some secretaries have received compensation either in contracts with the government or for differentials paid from La Fortaleza. Have you discussed the issue of your salary with the governor?
“The governor announced my appointment to me on Monday, and since then, I went into the State Department yesterday at 7:30 am and left at 8:30 pm and I didn’t have time to bother the governor. Today (yesterday) I have not spoken with her. I have a meeting at 3:00 pm and I guess after the meeting I’ll see her for a bit. I understand that at that time we are going to talk about several topics and, among them, I will include that topic. I have to be honest with you. We don’t discuss salary. We didn’t even remotely talk about it and I didn’t make that a condition for accepting the position. The important thing is that I was delegated a job and I’m going to do that job. “
How about assuming a position like this four months after the arrival of a new administration and in a four-year period in which the post of Secretary of State has gained relevance due to what happened in the summer of 2019?
“I think the post of secretary of state has not become important now; it has always had the same constitutional delegation and I think it has had the same importance. Let them now pay more attention to what happened in the summer (of 2019), that’s another thing. But the position has not changed. I made a commitment with the governor to attend to all the matters that she has delegated to me, to fulfill all my duties and responsibilities established in the laws and in the Constitution of Puerto Rico. I am prepared to do it and I will do it until the end of the four-year term ”.