Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira Zayas said yesterday that Carlos Mercader's resignation to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) will not affect the government's agenda, including efforts to bring recovery funds to the island.
"We do not see that this will negatively affect our efforts. Carlos has obviously been a key player in this recovery funds process, but there is a task force in Washington," Maceira Zayas told El Nuevo Día.
Mercader announced his resignation to the PRFAA last Wednesday, after more than a month away from office for health reasons. His resignation is effective April 30. George Laws García, deputy director at PRFAA, will be the interim director as of May 1.
Maceiras said the governor will announce the new director in due course.
The PRFAA office in Orlando does not have a director since Illia Torres resigned in March.
The agenda of the PRFAA includes recovery funds and efforts to promote the $600 million in nutrition assistance requested by Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares, a measure the White House opposed.
Maceira Zayas said the agenda also includes additional funds for the "resilient" reconstruction of the power grid; $25 million for the restoration of the Caño Martín Peña, and a new waiver from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) matching funds requirements.
Efforts in Washington –along with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, include equitable treatment on Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Mercader had a distant relationship with González who early admitted that she did not have a working relationship with Mercader.
However, during the last months, Mercader participated in the meetings between González had the governor.
Mercader and the PRFAA
Mercader, linked to U.S. Republicans, was one of Rosselló Nevares' main collaborators in Washington since he launched his group 'Boricua, Ahora es'.
He worked for the U.S. Department of Justice and for the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, chaired by Alfonso Aguilar, to whom he awarded a contract that was almost immediately canceled following warnings from the Office of Government Ethics (OEG, Spanish acronym).
Although as PRFAA executive director Mercader had lobbying firms under his jurisdiction, Manuel Ortiz, the governor´s main lobbyist –who has a contract with Compañía de Fomento Industrial (Industrial Development Company)- did not respond to his office.
“It has been an honor and absolute pleasure to work with Mercader. One of the hardest working, most genuinely committed public servants. Thanks for serving with distinction and absolutely the best to you on the next chapter,” Ortiz tweeted about Mercader´s resignation.
With the help of the lobbying firm Avenue Strategies and former Donald Trump´s advisors Corey Lewandowski and Barry Bennett, the government of Puerto Rico and PRFAA had good initial access to the U.S. government.
Then, like the crossfire between the White House and La Fortaleza last March, relations between the Trump and the Rosselló Nevares administrations bottomed out.
The PRFAA also coordinated, to a large extent, the emergency operation in the aftermath of Hurricane María.
José Javier Pérez collaborated with this story.