The disturbing lack of direct access to our highest authority to learn about the vital issues related to the impact of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico does not properly address the need to answer questions by the press to those who are leading the fight against the pandemic that has already killed 45 people in Puerto Rico.
Since March 26, the governor has only appeared twice in local media, privileging a communication scheme that favors, without a counterbalance, WIPR public television station. With this behavior, the government evades the seriousness of the emergency, casting shadows instead of light on the people who, confused and restless, are making sacrifices to put an end to the suffocating health and economic crisis.
We have stressed that the curfew was a wise and timely measure, taken earlier than in other jurisdictions, as an effective way to stop the spread. This newspaper has reinforced the message that staying at home is a very effective antidote to COVID-19, along with handwashing hygiene measures and the now mandatory use of masks in authorized activities. We appreciate the generous and, given his position, obvious disposition of Health Secretary Lorenzo González, who cannot have all the answers that this critical moment requires.
But the Wanda Vázquez administration is exposed to public scrutiny due to the lack of transparency regarding the level of efficiency of her government and the medical Task Force. Supporting many of the measures seeking to stop the spread of the pandemic does not mean that the government satisfies all the questions that the press legitimately needs to ask.
There are already serious questions about the government's credibility because of deficiencies in multi-million dollar contracts for the purchase of testing kits and ventilators.
The right to access public information for the people and the media, protected by the island´s Constitutional, is the main tool for achieving sound and efficient public administration. It is also essential to bring citizen support amid this unprecedented challenge.
Governor Vázquez must respond according to her positions without any electoral interest. She must appear before the press to provide precise information on the state of the disease on the island, showing her achievements and limitations with transparency.
We repudiate the use of the public TV station WIPR as a vehicle for political propaganda and for restricting journalists' questions. This would violate the Law for the Control of the Financing of Political Campaigns that provides, in section 7.005 that radio and television stations owned by the Government of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico may not be used by any party for political-partisan purposes.
The public authority should not seek to punish the press overseeing government actions since this would constitute a step backward for our democratic freedoms.
Having been sworn into office under the umbrella of our Magna Carta, the governor is responsible for appearing before the people, as great leaders do, to provide accurate information on health efforts and other issues related to government operations. She should not allow her press liaison to ignore her responsibility to respond to media inquiries when she promised, upon assuming her position, that she would be available full time to answer to the legitimate requirements of the press.
Delays in the release of information on infections, fatalities, and case tracking efforts, as well as inaccuracies or omissions in the steps to contain the pandemic, undermine the common mission to save lives and the efforts to revive the economy.
They should examine how open other jurisdictions are regarding these issues. For example, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reports daily on the severe impact of the virus and answers reporters' questions. His courage has won him support even from the opposition.
No government should, in such critical times, step back from their legitimate information responsibility. It is time to correct the distortion that tarnishes government actions amid the enormous task of protecting the lives of Puerto Ricans.