WASHINGTON D.C.: The U.S. Justice Department announced this week that former Puerto Rico governor Wanda Vazquez has been arrested in San Juan on bribery charges connected to the financing of her 2020 campaign.
Vazquez is the first former governor to face federal charges. Her attorney, Peter John Porrata, has told CNN that she will plead not guilty.
After being released on bond after a brief hearing, Vazquez told reporters, "I am innocent and a great injustice has been committed. I have committed no crime."
According to a Department of Justice statement, a former political consultant for Vazquez and the president of an international bank have pleaded guilty to participating in the bribery scheme.
A former FBI agent and the owner of the international bank that operated in San Juan were also involved in the scheme, it was learned.
This week, Stephen Muldrow, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, told reporters that Vazquez allegedly received more than $300,000 from two businessmen to pay for political consultants during her campaign.
Vazquez, who is named in three of seven counts in an indictment and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, along with others, are charged with conspiracy, federal bribery and wire fraud.
"The alleged bribery scheme rose to the highest levels of the Puerto Rican government, threatening public trust in our electoral processes and institutions of governance," according to Assistant Attorney-General Kenneth A. Polite Jr.
Meanwhile, Mayra Velez Serrano, a professor of political science at the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, said that many Puerto Ricans were shocked at the arrest, but not entirely surprised.
"That the former Justice Secretary and ex-governor, who is married to a judge, was involved in anything like this, and that she was arrested, is still shocking. This continues to undermine the public's confidence in the political system and their politicians, and the two main parties," she said, as quoted by CNN.