Raise amid layoffs puts Puerto Rico’s tourism chief in hot seat

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Puerto Rican lawmakers are demanding the island’s tourism director resign over a $36,000 raise even as the government has laid off thousands.

Sen. Cirilo Tirado accuses tourism chief Jaime Lopez of “lacking respect for the Puerto Rican people in the middle of a crisis.”

Also at issue: an additional $35,000 payment to Lopez that Tirado is calling a Christmas bonus.

Tourism deputy director Mario Gonzalez replies that a 30 percent raise for Lopez was planned since last year, although it was formally approved only last week. He says the other payment was not a bonus but retroactive compensation for separate work.

Lopez was traveling outside Puerto Rico and could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.