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Pictured: Puert Rico ex-governor Wanda Vázquez Garced.
Wanda Vázquez Garced faces federal prosecution for "unknowingly" accepting funds in exchange for a political favor. Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images.

Ex-Puerto Rico Governor arrested on charges of corruption

Wanda Vázquez took over the island’s governorship following Ricardo Roselló’s public ousting.

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On the morning of Thursday, Aug. 4, Puerto Rican Ex-Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced was arrested by the FBI on charges of corruption in a case that stems back a few months when the Puerto Rican Department of Justice alluded to an investigation in May of 2022 for financing irregularities.

Prosecutors allege Vázquez received donations from a Venezuelan banker during her 2020 campaign for Governor in exchange for changes to banking laws on the island. 

Her legal representation attributed the donations to technicalities, not the commission of an actual crime. 

Limary Cruz Rubio, a spokesperson for the FBI in the island’s bureau, had indicated in May that the agency was closely monitoring public officials for corruption and campaign wrongdoing, but said she could not confirm names during an ongoing investigation.

“The governor is innocent and wants people to know that she did not profit (sic.), she didn’t receive a dime,” her legal representation told Primera Hora, a national newspaper in Puerto Rico. 

As soon as the PR Justice department said they were ”thinking” of pressing charges, Vázquez’s legal team spared no expense in handling messaging, frequently appearing on the island’s popular news outlets, such as Jugando Pelota Dura.

“They’re going to bang down her door,” said Luis Plaza Mariota, an attorney on Vázquez’s legal team, during an interview with Tele11. 

Plaza went on to note that they’ve been fully compliant with the federal agency’s requests while adding that “[Wanda Vázquez] made the collegiate decision alongside her legal team to address the people directly because she’s not a typical politician.”

Vázquez's rise to the island's highest public office followed Ricky Roselló’s very public ousting, an event that made national headlines in the U.S. In the aftermath of Hurricane María, local investigative reporters on the island unveiled a Telegram chat through which several public officials exchanged disparaging messages regarding abnormalities in the death toll.

Protesters march to the PR capitol building.
Puerto Ricans demanded Vázquez's resignation after a warehouse full of supplies was found in the aftermath of Hurricane María. Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images.

Puerto Ricans showed up to the island’s capitol building in the tens of thousands, demanding Roselló resign from his role for a disastrous response to Hurricane María, leaving municipalities across the island without resources. 

The Telegram chat unleashed growing frustration island-wide, resulting in the biggest protests the commonwealth had seen in recent decades. 

Vázquez, then serving as the Secretary of Justice and a career politician, took on the role as she was the most senior official at the time. She drew controversy for her response to COVID, which included lockdowns, military blockades, and unusual ordinances that allowed citizens to travel based on the numbers on their license plates.

She ran an unsuccessful campaign in 2020, losing to Pedro Pierluisi, who was serving as the government’s Secretary of Justice at the time. 

Although Vázquez and her legal team have maintained innocence and no knowledge of wrongdoing, the federal investigation has raised concerns of intergovernmental irregularities during the campaign, adding to a growing list of accusations. 

Vázquez was the second female governor in the island’s history and the second overall to be arrested by a federal agency. 

The FBI has not commented on the case's specifics but will hold a press conference today at the Puerto Rico DOJ.

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