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PR gov’t balks at suspension of passport services

Secretary of State Luis Rivera-Marín expressed his dissatisfaction Monday with the interruption in passport services the U.S. Department of State ordered, which forces Puerto Rico residents to request the service in Miami.

On Oct. 3, the stateside agency ordered a suspension of services offered by the local Department of State, based on an apparent distrust of the U.S. Postal Service in Puerto Rico, which allegedly claimed it could not guarantee the return of passports issued to citizens.

Looking to resolve the problem, Rivera-Marín confirmed he had a phone conversation with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State in charge of passports, Brenda Sprague, whom he said refused to allow the local government to restart provisional services.

Rivera-Marín said he conveyed that repairs the federal government required to reauthorize passport services at the passport office’s Plaza las Américas, headquarters, were addressed and fixed.

“I expressed to Assistant Secretary Sprague that the mall is operational, the security and integrity of the documents are secured and that the postal service, in a communications with our agency is now operating normally,” Rivera-Marín said.

“However, the official refused to allow us to start with the provision of services because the postal service has said they can not guarantee the return of passports already issued to citizens,” he added.

“That, despite the fact that we gave them the option of our agency taking over collecting, receiving and delivering the passports issued to U.S. citizens residing in Puerto Rico,” he said.

“I let her know my annoyance and told her that [this action] is not in harmony with all the support we have received from all federal agencies in charge of the process of rebuilding Puerto Rico,” Rivera-Marín said.

On Monday, he took his concern to the White House’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and plan to undertake a multi-sectoral effort to get the U.S. Department of State to carry out its duty to provide services efficiently and diligently to Puerto Ricans.

“I’m not satisfied with this preliminary determination. Today I have asked not only for the authorization for the State Department to offer passport services on the island, but the reopening of the federal passports office in the North Tower of Minillas,” he said, referring to the government’s Santurce office complex.

“If the postal service can not guarantee the provision of services in Puerto Rico or the safe and timely mail delivery, it should say so,” Rivera-Marín said

“It’s enough with what we’ve already been through during the past month and it is inconceivable that our people have to get on a plane to go to Miami to get such an essential document to the daily life of any human being,” he said.

“This simply does not hold. I will go to the end of the line to get these services restored as soon as possible,” he said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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