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Issued : Wednesday, December 5, 2012 11:35 PM
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Sánchez Betances for Justice secretary

By CB Online Staff

Gov.-elect Alejandro García Padilla announced Wednesday the appointment of noted attorney Luis Sánchez Betances to head the island Justice Department.

Sánchez Betances’ vast legal experience includes successfully representing former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá in the “pivazos” vote case after the 2004 election. The Dominican-born attorney also represented developer Arturo Madero and beat back Acevedo Vilá administration efforts to block the Paseo Caribe project in San Juan.

García Padilla admitted that he initially expected Sánchez Betances to turn down the post because of the lawyer’s success and standing in the private sector.

“I thought I would get the common response in a Puerto Rico that faces so many challenges,” he said in a press conference at the General Archives building in San Juan.

García Padilla said he pitched the post to Sánchez Betances by saying Puerto Rico “doesn’t need just another Justice secretary. It needs a José Trías Monge or a Lino Saldaña.”

For his part, Sánchez Betances thanked García Padilla for the opportunity to serve Puerto Rico and give back to an island that has given him much. He pledged a responsible administration and to work to tighten ties with other crime-fighting entities.

Sánchez Betances said that local entities, police, prosecutors and judges are responsible for law and order in Puerto Rico, signaling a potential change in the trend toward enlisting more federal help in the crime fight.

He acknowledged the importance of cooperation with federal authorities, but said investigating, solving and submitting cases will be done by local authorities.

Sánchez Betances said the island’s 30 percent solve rate in homicide cases is unacceptable and that more killers must be brought to justice.

He pledged a firm hand against violent crime and corruption while promising to watch out for the civil rights of marginalized sectors of society.

“We are all equal under the law,” Sánchez Betances said.

He said he would fight against “incompetence, mediocrity and disinterest” in the public sector.

The announcement of the incoming Justice secretary Wednesday was the third by García Padilla as his Cabinet continues to take shape ahead of his inauguration in early January.

Last week, the Popular Democratic Part leader named a range of top economic appointments.

Businessman Alberto Bacó Bagué was tapped as secretary of the Economic Development & Commerce Department (DDEC by its Spanish acronym), a sprawling umbrella agency that covers key agencies including the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco), the Tourism Co. (PRTC) and the Trade & Export Co.

Bacó Bagué is a business and legal adviser who served as president of Marvel International and Bohío International food companies from 1998 to 2011. He headed the island government’s Economic Development Bank from 1990 to 1993 and also served a stint as executive vice president of the Government Development Bank.

Executive Antonio Medina was picked to head Pridco, a vital job-creation agency that also owns industrial properties around the island. He currently serves as chief finance officer for pharmaceutical giant Merck’s operations in Brazil.

Ingrid Rivera Rocafort will head the PRTC, a public corporation with more than 500 employees and a budget of $100 million. She is leaving her post as director of investor relations at San Juan-based venture capital firm Advent-Morro Equity Partners.

Francisco Chévere got the top job at Trade & Export. Chévere is an experienced labor lawyer at the McConnell Valdés law firm and is a member of the Popular Democratic Party executive committee.

García Padilla had already tapped Ingrid Vilá as La Fortaleza chief of staff and David Bernier as secretary of State. Vilá is currently co-chairing the governor-elect’s transition committee, while Bernier was the longtime head of the Puerto Rico Olympic Committee.

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